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By Wale Mustapha.
An inspired second half performance saw Kogi United edged stubborn Kaduna United to a 2-1 win in one of the rescheduled Nigeria National League, NNL Matchday 13 encounters played in Lokoja on Saturday.
The first half of the game did not produce much of talking points as Kaduna United kept their visitors at bay.
But the hosts upped the ante in the second half and could have taken the lead within two minutes of restart when Ibrahim Enesi headed wide Adewumi Femi’s cross.
Kogi United kept pushing for the opening goal as Kaduna’s defense proved insoluble.
Kogi United took the lead four minutes after the hour mark when Idris Muye tucked in a rebounded effort as substitute John John’s free kick deflected from the wall.
The lead could only last for two minutes as Kaduna United equalized in a similar version.
The defense failed to deal with Zakari Dahiru’s delivery and allowed former Kogi United’s forward Samson Pius to latched on from close range.
The equalizer appeared to have woken both sides and it became an end to end affairs.
The hosts could have regained the lead in the 73rd minute from Sunday Stephen’s flicking header but Kaduna United goalkeeper, Mohammed Kabiru gathered on time.
Victor Tale disturbed the visitors’ defense with his trademark long throws and kept them under continuous pressure as Kogi push to regain the lead.
Kaduna United – handled by former Kogi United’s coach, Ishaya Jatau- would then caved in the 78th minute as they conceded a penalty when Micheal Paul handled the ball from Femi’s cross inside the box.
Daniel Frimpong converted the resultant spot kick to restore lead for the hosts with ten minutes to end the game.
It then became a long walk for the visitors as they allowed Kogi United pile more pressure on them.
Eghe Osas would then replaced Olushola Ajala for the hosts and the skillful midfielder caused more problems for Kaduna’s defense with his well measured passes.
The former Wikki’s schemer won a free kick for the hosts in the added time.
John John released a canon which Kabiru parried towards Sunday who scored from rebound but he’s flagged offside.
The victory has however taken Kogi United to second on the log, two points behind leaders Kada City.
An elated Kogi United’s coach, Tunde Abdulrahman who commended his boys for their spirited performance noted that his side could not give much as they were suffering from fatigue -United have played three matches in seven days- but believed they will sail through the difficult moments.
Abdulrahman admitted that the race to pick one of the playoffs spot for the NPFL is getting tougher but expressed optimism that Kogi United would get the job in the end.
“It is getting more challenging and tougher that’s why it was a difficult match today, I must commend my players because its not easy, we had little time to rest for this game, but I’m sure we will come good with the remaining games,” he said.
Coach Ishaya Jatau said his Kaduna United side were second best as they succumbed to their hosts’ pressure just as sure of finishing well on the log.
“I believe my boys tried, they played well but Kogi United played better so they deserve to win, yes, they (Kogi United) are on top of us now, but its not over yet, I still believe that I will finish well because I have confidence in my team,” Jatau said.
Kogi United will wrap up their outstanding games with an away tie against FC Taraba on Wednesday.
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