Enyimba battled gamely, but ultimately came away from the Ifeanyi Ubah Games Village with a 1-0 defeat on Sunday.
A hard-fought encounter, in keeping with the spirit of a derby, was decided when Godwin Obaje raced onto Ngoma Luamba's pass and finished with aplomb just five minutes after the half time break.
Prior, the seven-time league champions had been resolute and defiant, but struggled for attacking impetus in the absence of midfield virtuoso Ikechukwu Ibenegbu. In his place, Olufemi Oladapo added steel and experience, helping to repel the hosts all through the first period. Stephen Chukwude was the other introduction to the team, replacing Chinonso Okonkwo who scored his third goal in three games in last week's victory over Niger Tornadoes. Against his former side though, the striker was unable to get going, and eventually made way late in the game.
From the sound of the whistle, the agenda was set by a searing run from Prince Aggreh into the box, with Isiaka Oladuntoye halting his progress at the last. From the resulting corner, Ngoma headed over the top. With a quarter of an hour gone, Ibrahim Mustapha cushioned a header for Stanley Dimgba running through on goal. Under pressure though, he was able to make a clean connection, firing wide of Drissa Bamba's goal.
Four minutes later, a quick free kick by Andrew Abalogu caught the hosts by surprise. He found Mfon Udoh in the clear, and his low cross led to pandemonium in the FC Ifeanyi Ubah defence, with Bamba having to get down smartly to prevent an own-goal.
Aside a succession of skied shots from the edge of the area, the clearest sight of goal for the hosts came just before half time. Patrick Ikeokwu threaded a needle to find Obaje free in the box, but his touch was heavy, allowing Fatau Dauda to race out and claim.
For all the dominance of the home side, it was Enyimba who could have gone into the break ahead. A poor backpass left Bamba stranded way outside his goal, and Udoh was on the scene like a bloodhound. His cutback to the edge of the area was met by Kelly Kester, whose shot lacked the power to carry the ball beyond the covering defenders.
The second half began in similarly frenetic fashion, and in the 50th minute, the hosts took the lead.
Ngoma split the Enyimba defence with a through ball to find Obaje in space. The lanky forward still had work to do, but he held off the challenge of Oladuntoye impressively, before firing into the roof of the net to break the deadlock. There was more than a hint of offside to it, with furious protestations by the Enyimba players and officials, but the referee was satisfied and the goal stood.
It would come to decide the game, in spite of Enyimba's best efforts. Oladapo had a good effort from distance saved, while Ifeanyi Ubah skipper Wilson Elu saw yellow for a blatant shirt pull on Udoh, was racing through on goal in behind the defence. However, the hosts held on for all three points in Nnewi, a result that sees Enyimba drop from third to seventh on the table, with 44 points from 29 games, seven points behind leaders Plateau United.
FC Ifeanyi Ubah (Godwin Obaje 50') 1-0 Enyimba
Starting XI: Fatau Dauda, Andrew Abalogu, Isiaka Oladuntoye, Nelson Ogbonnaya, Ikouwem Udoh (Chima Akas 45'), Kelly Kester, Olufemi Oladapo (Koffi Franco Atchou 72'), Stanley Dimgba, Mfon Udoh, Stephen Chukwude (Chinonso Okonkwo 83'), Ibrahim Mustapha.
Unused subs: Theophilus Afelokhai, Samson Gbadebo, Dare Ojo, Joseph Osadiaye.
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