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By: Ade Adeleke
Israel Abia’s debut goal was not enough as a spirited Sunshine Stars side lost 2-1 to the People’s Elephants in an exhilarating Nigeria Professional Football League, (NPFL) week 12 game at the Enyimba Stadium, Aba on Sunday.
Dare Olatunji’s goal gave Enyimba a halftime lead before Ifeanyi Anaemena doubled the advantage through a disputed penalty in the second half, while a well worked out Sunshine Stars’ chance finished off expertly by Abia kept the visitors in the game till the end.
Sunshine Stars headed into the contest looking to respond to a hardly deserved 1-0 defeat to Rangers Thursday, but after surviving an early onslaughts from the home side with a save from Ayo Ojo and good defensive displays, faced an uphill task from just before the hour mark.
Nine minutes after Joseph Osadiaye struck within inches from gifting Enyimba the opener, Dare Olatunji forced home a low drive from the edge to send a wave of jubilation across the packed Enyimba Stadium in the 29th minute.
Ayo Ojo kept Sunshine Stars in the game with a diving save that prevented Seun Sogbeso’s miscued clearance from going into his own net minutes before the break.
The visitors were penalised for an alleged handball in the area in a closed fashion during an aerial duel, prompting a protest from the players, but expectedly the arbiter’s decision stood, as Anaemena stepped up to extend the lead from the spot in the 70′.
However the Elephants were pegged back five minutes later when Abia halved the deficit with his first league goal in the orange and blue colours through a perfect header off an incisive Alaba Adeniyi’s cross, to end a four-match goal drought for the coach Kabiru Dogo tutored side.
Midfield maestro, Dayo Ojo almost completed the come back in 77′ as he drilled just wide from the edge with Fatau Dauda beaten already.
Before the spectacle was brought to an end, a desperate Nasiru Sani’s clearance denied the visitors another equalising chance from an Abia’s ball in at the death.
The result saw the Akure Landlords dropped to 8th on the log with 13 points from 11 matches, and next face Kwara United at home on the 31st of March.
*Enyimba XI:* Dauda; Abalogu, Sani, Anaemena, Ogbonnaya, Zenke (Dimgba 52′), Olatunji (Emmanuel 64′), Oladapo, Osadiaye, Bashir, Udechukwu (Onuwa 88′)
*Unused Subs:* Theophilus Afelokhai, Ernest Governor, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Ibrahim Mustapha
*Sunshine Stars* XI: Ayo Ojo; Olulayo, Sogbeso, Gabriel, Adeniyi; Abe, Egbeta, Ekelojuoti (Amah 73′), Dayo Ojo; Abia, Fabiyi (Adeniji 81′)
*Unused Subs:* Ariyo; Akande, Adekunle, Igbinoba, Barnabas
*Cautions:* Olulayo 45+1′, Adeniyi 56′, Abe 79′, Abalogu 90′
Media Officer; Sunshine Stars FC