Sunday Faleye produced an hour of excellent display of his enormous footballing talent to help Nigeria’s home-based Super Eagles reach the final of the NPFL Invitational Tournament in Kano.
The former Shooting Stars starlet was a thorn in the flesh of the Enyimba defence and ultimately provided the game’s only goal ten minutes after the break as Salisu Yusuf’s Eagles beat the two-time African champions 1-0.
The Eagles endured a torrid evening on their opening fixture, a goalless draw with league champions Plateau United and rang the changes for this fixture, changing the entire starters for the game against Enyimba.
Faleye was at the heart of every good thing Yusuf’s men produced early on and he could have given them the lead on 11 minutes after neatly exchanging passes with Dayo Ojo but his volley flew over the bar.
Emeka Ogbugh then went even closer on the quarter hour mark when his former club mate (at Rivers United) Ifeanyi Nweke freed him but Ogbugh’s effort came off the foot of Dauda’s post.
Enyimba were dealt an injury blow on the half hour mark when centre back Isiaka Oladuntoye was stretchered off, with his place taken by new recruit Ernest Governor. The Eagles remained in control of the possession as the first half ended, leaving the thoughts of another impending stalemate with the fans.
Knowing that they would exit the competition if the result stands goalless at full time, the Super Eagles upped the ante in the second half and Ogbugh went close again with a header seven minutes after the interval.
The Eagles finally found a breakthrough three minutes later through Faleye. The Akwa United attacker latched on to a carefully weighted pass by right back Ifeanyi Nweke, brought it under sizeable control with his first touch and arrowed home a ferocious volley beyond Dauda.
That was virtually his last contribution of the game as he was replaced by his new club mate Gabriel Okechukwu shortly afterwards. He had however done enough to impress the coaching crew within the hour of football.
One almost turned two for the Eagles three minutes later from the same right channel as Nweke found Victor Mbaoma unmarked inside the box. The young striker’s diving header went inexplicably wide.
Despite playing second best for majority of the contest, Enyimba poured forward in the final 20 minutes in search of a goal which would have progressed them to the final.
Governor rose highest to meet Chinedu Udeagha’s corner but his header flew over the bar. Their best chance however came 12 minutes from time but Dele Ajiboye produced a superb reflex save to deny Freedom Omofoman’s far post flick.
Ajiboye once again caught a free kick by Enyimba’s captain on the day, Chinonso Okonkwo late on with Emeka Atuloma wasting a further chance for the Eagles at the death.
The Eagles were full value for their victory and will contest Sunday’s championship match at the Sani Abacha Stadium.
Enyimba: Fatau Dauda; Olayinka Onaolapo, Ikouwem Udoh, Isiaka Oladuntoye (Ernest Governor 30′), Nelson Ogbonnaya, Farouk Mohammed, Chinedu Udeagha, Stanley Dimgba, Wasiu Alalade (Ugochukwu Leonard 81′), Bashir Abdulrahman (Freedom Omofoman 60′), Chinonso Okonkwo
Unused subs: Friday Achimugwu; Benjamin Francis, Maxwell Effiom, Dare Ojo, Ifeanyi Anaemena
Super Eagles: Dele Ajiboye; Ifeanyi Nweke, Orji Kalu Okagbue, Stephen Eze, Victor Mbaoma (Douglas Achiv 73′), Emeka Ogbugh (Emeka Atuloma 83′), Daniel Itodo (Chima Akas 83′), Dayo Ojo (Peter Eneji 72′), Austine Oladapo, Abdulkadir Zango, Sunday Faleye (Gabriel Okechukwu 66′)
Unused subs: Theophilus Afelokhai; Sikiru Olatunbosun, Kingsley Eduwo, Ibrahim Mustapha, Timothy Danladi, Nura Muhammed