BY MFON PATRICK.
A new hero may have emerged in the Nigerian league this season. Alhassan Ibrahim’s sensational hat-trick in a space of sixteen minutes inspired Akwa United to a 4-2 victory over Shooting Stars Sports Club on match day 17 fixtures at the Godswill Akpabio l Stadium in Uyo on Sunday.
Ubong Friday opened scoring in the 11th minute when he rose above 3SC’s defence to head home Amaechi Orji’s free kick. Thereafter, it was Akwa all the way.
The Promise Keepers doubled their lead in the 28th minute after Musa Newman forced Sodiq Surja and goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar into making a costly error which Alhassan capitalised to score his first goal of the match.
Eight minutes later, Alhassan picked up a loose ball in the visitor’s half and dribbled his way pass three 3SC defenders before slotting the ball beyond the goalkeeper for his second goal of the game to send the jubilant fans into cloud nine.
The midfielder completed his hat-trick in the 43th minute when he headed home Amaechi Orji’s excellent cross into the net for his first hat-trick for Akwa United and his ninth goal of the season.
Shooting Stars made two substitutions including goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar who appeared to have sustained injury but they were unable to reduce the deficit as Coach Maikaba’s team went into the break with a healthy 4-0 lead.
On resumption of second half, Akwa United continued where they left off and two quick attempts at goal were narrowly missed by Ubong Friday and Alhassan Ibrahim.
The visitors regained some confidence in the second half and a dangerous ball into the area was saved by Ishmaila Shagari, but the goalkeeper collided with his central defender Ariwachukewu Emmanuel in the process. Both players sustained injury and the goalkeeper was replaced by Emmanuel Iwu early in the second half.
Shooting Stars continued their search for a goal and in the 58th minute Moses James pulled a goal back from Sodiq Suraja’s long throw into the box.
Aremu Afeez, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Amaechi Orji were in their element detecting the pace of the game and creating chances but Alhassan, Newman and Friday failed to increase the tally.
Coach Maikaba made two tactical changes, introducing Michael Ibe and Chigozie Chilekwu to replace Aremu Afeez and Amaechi Orji towards the end of the match.
A late minute counter attack by 3SC was rewarded with a free kick outside the box and Shittu Taiwo stepped up and blasted a shot pass the wall to score for the visitors to narrow the score line. But it was too late for 3SC as Akwa United strolled to their sixth win of the season and moved up to ninth position on the NPFL table.