Lobi Stars and Enyimba shared the spoils in Markurdi on the opening matchday of the 2017/18 NPFL season.
Against the backdrop of the recent spate of attacks on Benue State, and following an impeccably observed minute’s silence, the football on offer was rather lacking in intensity.
However, Enyimba took a first-half lead just before the break, before being pegged back in the second period.Enyimba gaffer Paul Aigbogun handed league debuts for the club to five off-season acquisitions.
The team however retained a spine comprising players instrumental to last season’s third-place finish, and veteran midfielder Dare Ojo took the captain’s armband for the afternoon.
The hosts settled quickest, although there was little by way of goalscoring opportunity. Mistakes in both boxes almost cost either side however; Alalade seized upon a short back-pass to poke past Olufemi Kayode in the Lobi goal, only to see his effort cleared off the line; and Thomas Adesina benefited from a slip by Isiaka Oladuntoye, forcing Fatau Dauda into a smart low save.
It was Enyimba though who took the lead five minutes before the break, somewhat against the run of play.
There looked to be nothing on as Alalade chased down a ball in the channel, but she showed good strength to hold off two markers, before somehow emerging with the ball. His low cross across the six-yard box was turned in coolly by Chinedu Udeagha.Expectedly, there was a bit more urgency from Lobi Stars after the break. Cletus Itodo had a powerful drive easily held by Dauda in the 51st minute, while Ayo Saka headed over.
They would eventually level matters following a coming together inside the Enyimba box. Yinka Onaolapo looked to have been fouled first, before then tangling with the onrushing Lobi attacker.
The referee deemed the contact sufficient for the award of a penalty, and booked the right-back. Ezekiel Mbah made no mistake from the spot.
That would be all the scoring, and although Chinonso Okonkwo had a free kick tipped over, both teams settled for the point.Enyimba will next face Heartland on Wednesday, 17 January at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar.