The much anticipated 2022/23 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season finally got underway on Sunday with the only game of the day taking place at the Nest of Champions, Uyo, between Akwa United and newcomers, Bendel Insurance.
After 90 minutes of action, it was the newly-promoted Insurance team that emerged victorious with a 2-0 scoreline over their hosts, Akwa United.
Sunday’s result was similar to what was obtained in the first game last season when the then newly promoted Remo Stars came to Lagos and stunned MFM FC at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena.
Imade Osehenkhoe, a graduate of the University of Benin (Uniben), scored the first goal of the NPFL season from a quick finish from midfielder, Devine Nwachukwu, in the 39th minute, before Seriki Ismael doubled the lead for the Benin Arsenal.
Before the kickoff, a minute’s silence was observed in respect of the deceased former Akwa United Chairman, Obong Isong, who died on 2 December 2022.
Then both sides began the fistful encountercautiouslyr for the first 10 minutes.
After sizing each other up in the early exchanges, Bendel Insurance were the first to get a chance on goal from Ebuka Akobundu’s free-kick in the 11th minute but the effort couldn’t go past Akwa United’s wall.
The hosts then reciprocated in the 19th minute with Moses Effiong’s corner kick being saved by Bendel’s goalkeeper, Amas Obasogie.
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The goalkeeper did save two more corner deliveries to deny the host an opener.
Four minutes later, Akwa United’s James Arong headed Moses Effiong’s corner wide and in the 25th minute, Amas parried James Ajako’s long-range shot to a corner.
The game was still barren after the half-hour mark with the hosts putting up the visitors to an offensive test.
The hosts failed to get on target in the 35th minute after the combination of both James Ajako and Moses Effiong went wide.
Four minutes later, Bendel Insurance broke the deadlock with Imade Osehenkhoe finishing Devine Nwachuku’s through ball. Imade, a Uniben graduate and Higher Institution Football League (HIFL) product, scored the first goal of the season.
The visitors then added the second goal two minutes before the halftime break through Ismael Seriki who poked in the ball after an initial save by Akwa United’s goalkeeper Godsgift Elkanah’s
The hosts trailing in the first half were on a rescue mission in the second half and two minutes after, Ubong Friday’s header from Onyekachi Nwaiwu’s cross was saved by Amas.
The Bendel Insurance goalkeeper being the captain of the team was the source of strength for the Benin Arsenal. Amas in the 49th minute was called to action with Moses Effiong’s header and the skipper didn’t hesitate to parry the goal-bound attempt to a corner.
Though Akwa United mounted pressure on Insurance in the latter stages of the game, they failed to get even a consolation goal let alone earn a share of the spoils with the visitors.
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