Sunshine Stars scored a late goal to force a 2-2 draw against visiting Lobi Stars in Wednesday’s Matchday 4 fixture of the 2020-21 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season in Akure.
The Owena Whales had taken an early lead through Fuad Ekelojuoti but the visitors pegged back through Mathias Samuel’s goal on the stroke of halt time.
Lobi Stars looked destined for an away win after Ossy Martins netted his third goal of the season with 13 minutes left on the clock. However, substitute Sadeeq Yusuf came off the bench to salvage a point for Sunshine Stars at the death.
Sunshine Stars made two changes to the team that started the game away at MFM FC on Sunday. Olatunde Abisoye replaced Tope Akande in the heart of the defense while attacker Kolade Adeniji took the place of Waheed Adebayo. Meanwhile, the visitors rang a total of five changes to their starting line-up from the 3-0 victory over Warri Wolves three days earlier.
BUT it was the home side that took the initiative to get their noses in front when the first clear opportunity of the game beckoned. Youngster Ayo Adejubu collected the ball from the edge of opposition area before sending a low cross for Ekelojuoti to tap in for Sunshine Stars’ lead.
The goal sparked a swift reaction from Lobi Stars and the Makurdi based side almost grabbed an instant equalizer but Mathias’ free kick from 25 yards out landed safely in the waiting arms of goalkeeper David Ariyo.
Lobi Stars eventually got their equalizer on the stroke of half time as Zenke Thomas led a swift counter attack and put Mathias through on goal with a delightful pass. Mathias expertly poked the ball through the arms of onrushing Ariyo while a goal line clearance by Abisoye proved futile.
The home side returned from the break with more intent to retake the lead but their efforts were reduced to long range shots which proved ineffective in breaking the resilience of Lobi Stars goalkeeper Aliko Mustapha.
Lobi Stars would eventually go on to take the lead through another sleek counter attack. Onuwa Chukwuka latched onto a loose ball in the opposition box but his effort was kindly deflected for Martins to volley home a surprising lead for the visitors in the 77th minute.
The home side reacted with great show of character and they were duly rewarded with an equalizer in the added minutes. Yusuf scored his most important goal yet for Sunshine Stars in the second added minute after regulation time. The substitute reacted quickest to prod home the ball into an empty net after Seun Olulayo’s free kick had rattled the crossbar.
Sunshine Stars head coach Gbenga Ogunbote was not surprised by his team’s successful push for the late equalizer, “It (the late goal) was not a surprise because I knew he was going to score. It would have been out of luck if we had not scored because we had such sessions in our trainings. You can see that I emphasized on the man who was to take the free kick,” he told npfl.ng.
Lobi Stars head coach Kabiru Dogo refused to draw disappointment from the late goal allowed by his team.
“I think it is a good result for both teams although it is also a game we should have won because of the maturity in my team’s display but that is football sometimes. Regardless, I am satisfied with the result,” said Dogo.
SUNSHINE STARS vs Lobi Stars
Ariyo David 1, Akobundu Ebuka 16, Seun Olulayo 6, Kehinde Adeyemi 12, Fuad Ekelojuoti 32, Bright Akpojuvewho 33, Olatunde Abisoye 5, Kolade Adeniji 8 (Akinloose 77′), Tolulope Oluwole 7, Kabiru Tijani 13 (Sadeeq 89′), Ayo Adejubu 36 (Waheed 40′)
Salihu Suleiman 21, Amuda Sherrif 15, Habib Yakub 4, Alaba Adeniyi 29, Sadeeq Yusuf 9, Stephen Begbaji 27, Ayo Akinloose 24, Waheed Adebayo 17, Quazeem Obanigba 18
Sunshine Stars vs LOBI STARS
Aliko Mustapha 30, Lazarus John 2, Ebube Duru 3, Osimaga Duke 15, Martins Owoliyah 16, Adeleye Aniyikaye 4, Mathias Samuel 13 (Onuwa 55′), Segun Alebiosu 19 (Segun 55′), Ossy Martins 9, Victor Arikpo 14 (Alex 71′), Thomas Zenke 7 (Mahmud 84′).
Moses Ocheje 21, Buruku John 23, Yisa Anifowoshe 5, Alex Aghahowa 6, Onuwa Chukwuka 33, Christian Ahamefula 37, Abdulwasiu Mahmud 28, Chinonso Okonkwo 29, Austine Ogunye 12
Sunshine Stars: Fuad Ekelojuoti 9′, Sadeeq Yusuf 90+2′
Lobi Stars: Mathias Samuel 45+1′, Ossy Martins 77′
Sunshine Stars: Kolade Adeniji 19′, Waheed Adebayo 44′.
Lobi Stars: Adeleye Aniyikaye 27′, Mathias Samuel 38′, Ebube Duru 41′, Chinonso Okonkwo 70′.