Enyimba Football Club produced an energetic performance to overcome a difficult playing condition and claim a point in a goalless draw against Bendel Insurance at the University of Benin Sports Complex on Sunday evening.
The biggest talking point of the game, which barely took shape until after the break, came at the tail end when Ibrahim Mustapha’s simple finish was wrongly ruled out to deny the visitors a win.
Usman Abd’Allah handed youngster Bright Emmanuel his Enyimba debut in one of three changes that also saw Stanley Nwabali and Stanley Okorom return to the starting lineup.
The visitors struggled in the early exchanges and Nwabali was made to produce a top class save in the tenth minutes to deny Adimorama Ezeh from close range.
The Enyimba keeper was called to action again just after the half hour as he gathered from a goal-mouth scramble after Junior Osaghae’s header came off the crossbar.
After the break, Abd’Allah’s men showed more intent with Mustapha appearing to be the centre of their attacking threats. The forward was involved in an amazing run from the centre that fell just short of the desired result as his pass to Bala inside the box was intercepted.
Moments later, Mustapha found space at the edge of the box and released a bullet that was only parried away by the goalkeeper.
With the match heading towards a barren end, Bala flicked Nwabali’s long ball to Mustapha’s path and the lanky forward finished off with a first touch, only to watch in agony as the assistant referee’s flag went up for offside.
It proved to be the defining moment of the lively encounter, and Abd’Allah expectedly captured it in his post match comments.
“We were planning to come and get our first away win and when you look at it technically we got our first away win because the referee had given the goal but the linesman just denied us the goal,” the gaffer lamented.
“But all together, the most important thing is to keep on counting the points and make sure we qualify for the play offs.
“We will keep on working as we’ve been working because as you can see most of the work we’ve been doing are coming up. At the beginning we kept on scoring the goals and conceding, but now this is our fourth match without even conceding a goal both home and away. And we’ve been scoring also, even in away matches. Like today we scored a clean goal.
“I’m happy with the result and also I’m happy with all the performances of the boys. We have a lot of new boys that are coming in like Bright. He did very well. He came up with a performance in this kind of contest that is all about gut.
“Most of the new young players whenever I bring them in and they play well I become happy because it shows that we’re doing the work and they are the fruit of the work. I told you they are the future of the team.”
Enyimba have now remained unbeaten in their last four matches, keeping clean sheets in all.