Sunday saw Enyimba extend its winning run at home in the league to seven games as they saw off Niger Tornadoes 3-0 in Calabar.
The return to the side of captain and top scorer Mfon Udoh, described by coach Gbenga Ogunbote as the "leader of the team", grabbed the headlines before the game. However, it was goals from Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Chinonso Okonkwo and Stanley Dimgba that gave the People's Elephants an emphatic result that sees them go up to third on the table.
The team however made heavy weather of a nervy first half, with Okonkwo going closest in the 22nd minute. Ikouwem Udoh's cross to the back post was headed down by Ibrahim Mustapha, but his strike partner's stooping header was somehow kept out by Tornadoes goalkeeper Mustapha Aliko.
The visitors' goalie was again on hand to prevent the opener five minutes before the break. Okonkwo this time looked to turn provider, chipping behind the defence line for an onrushing Udoh. With the captain primed to connect, a gloved hand intervened to take it off his head at the last.
He was powerless to stop the goal when it did arrive though. A foul on Mustapha just outside the area was penalized, and Ibenegbu stepped up to curl a delightful effort beyond Aliko and into the top corner right on the stroke of half time.
The opener unsurprisingly had a calming effect, and Enyimba came out of the blocks with a perceptible swagger in the second period. Mustapha's runs were causing no end of trouble for the Tornadoes defence - first, he stung Aliko's palms from range; then he got in behind to cross to Udoh, but put too much on the delivery.
The second eventually came in the 65th minute, a move that was the spitting image of the spurned chance in the first half: Udoh playing in Ikouwem on the overlap, a deep cross to Mustapha at the back post, a knock down, and Okonkwo there to apply the finish. This time, Aliko could not deny him.
Ogunbote revealed after the game that he had indeed worked on that particular passage of play on the training ground.
"There are a lot of team and individual tactics when the league is [coming] to an end, that's what can help you," he conceded. "When it's difficult, it makes the difference.
"So, we have been working on it; even the (Ibenegbu) free kick, you can see. That's what we've been working seriously on. You might not get it always, but even if you cannot score from it, you should [come close to] scoring."
There was still time at the end for winger Stanley Dimgba to put the icing on, as he got in behind in the final minute of regulation time to slot home at the near post.
Enyimba (Ibenegbu 45+4', Okonkwo 65', Dimgba 90') 3-0 Niger Tornadoes
Starting XI: Theophilus Afelokhai, Andrew Abalogu, Isiaka Oladuntoye, Nelson Ogbonnaya (Samson Gbadebo 37'), Ikouwem Udoh, Dare Ojo, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu (Olufemi Oladapo 80'), Stanley Dimgba, Mfon Udoh, Chinonso Okonkwo (Stephen Chukwude 76'), Ibrahim Mustapha
Unused subs: Fatau Dauda, Kelly Kester, Ifegwu Ojukwu, Joseph Osadiaye
- 17 Jul, 2017
- 11 Jul, 2017
- 9 Jul, 2017
- 26 Jun, 2017
- 20 Jun, 2017