Enyimba stretched its run of games without defeat to three with a 1-1 draw away at ABS FC on Sunday afternoon.
The People’s Elephant came into the game full of confidence after a rousing midweek win over FC Ifeanyi Ubah, and looked set for all three points after Mfon Udoh opened the scoring. However, Stone Evboumwan’s penalty seven minutes from the end earned the hosts a share of the spoils at the Kwara Stadium Complex.
There were two changes to the team that won on Wednesday in Calabar, with Fatau Dauda selected in goal and youngster Ikouwem Udoh replacing first-choice left-back Chima Akas, who was unavailable through injury.
The game kicked off in scorching temperatures in Ilorin, but that was not to deter a frenetic start. Dare Ojo twice nipped in to repel the hosts inside the first five minutes, before Kwara-local Ismaila Gata set up strike partner Ibrahim Mustapha to volley over.
Solid pressing in midfield by Mfon Udoh set up a counter-attack, but the hosts’ defence got back in time to prevent a Mustapha back-heel from reaching Gata. It was a sign of things to come.
A surging run by Osadiaye set up a presentable opportunity. His shot was flapped half-clear by ABS goalkeeper Abdullahi Boje, and Mustapha followed in with a half volley that swerved narrowly wide.
A bit of controversy ensued just after the half-hour mark. Chigozirim Metu won a foot-race against Samson Gbadebo to a through ball over the top, before then going down inside the box as the defender slid in. The referee was unmoved by the home crowd’s protests, adjudging Gbadebo to have won the ball.
The best chance of the first half would fall to Mfon Udoh in the 38th minute. Osadiaye’s measured pass found the captain clean through on goal, but he dragged his effort slightly, beating Boje but seeing the shot roll agonizingly wide, a matter of inches.
Even with the excitement in the opening period, the opening goal straight from the second half kick-off caught the stadium cold. Udoh again pressured and won the ball close to the edge of the ABS penalty area, and then slid in Gata. The burly striker cut the ball back into his path, and the captain tapped it home from just inside the six-yard box.
The hosts could have equalized three minutes later, but goalkeeper Dauda got down well to a powerful Mohammed Mohammed header at the far post, palming it away for a corner. The striker had yet another chance to level the tie in the 66th minute, but Gbadebo got back well to atone for his error leading up to the opportunity, blocking the resulting shot.
The pressure from the hosts eventually told eight minutes from time. Adeshina Gata, sibling to Enyimba’s no. 17, went down in the box under the challenge of Kelly Kester, and the referee promptly pointed to the spot. Substitute Evboumwan stepped up, and scored past the outstretched arm of Dauda to level the game.
Enyimba XI: Fatau Dauda; Ikouwem Udoh, Isiaka Oladuntoye (Ifeanyi Anaemena 67’), Samson Gbadebo, Dare Ojo, Kelly Kester, Joseph Osadiaye (Olufemi Oladapo 74’), Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Mfon Udoh, Ismaila Gata (Stephen Chukwude 56’), Ibrahim Mustapha