Mohamed Zulkifilu first-half header was enough to clinch three points for Abdu Maikaba’s Plateau United, ending the six-match unbeaten run of Nasarawa United in the 2020/21 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season.
Here are eight things we learned in the match played at the Jos International Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Special Gyang appetizer
It was going to take something special to break down a well-organised and tactically assured Nasarawa United side, yet the opening goal was special.
Ibrahim Babawo got the ball rolling with a surging run down the right-flank before laying the ball back to Amos Gyang.
The winger scanned his options before cutting onto his stronger right foot and zipping a ball to the first post where a hapless Danlami Umar was in no-mans-land enabling Mohamed Zulkifilu to calmly nod home.
Ikefe-Buhari – The best partnership
The Peace Boys have kept three successive clean sheets, against Adamawa United, Katsina United and Nasarawa United, as Ibrahim Buhari enjoys regular game time.
Coach Abdu Maikaba should stick with Andrew Ikefe and Ibrahim Buhari at the heart of the backline as a solid defence can be a key part for Plateau United’s push for the NPFL title.
Perhaps Nasarawa United were too excited?
After six unbeaten games, the hype coming into this clash against Plateau United had Nasarawa United fans in high spirits.
With Victor Okoro joining the fray and morale soaring, there was good reason for optimism. In the end, Nasarawa United may have got somewhat carried away with themselves. Why? Because in truth, that was fairly tiresome to watch.
Isah Ndala Passed His Test
This was a big day for the midfielder, who came face to face his toughest challenge of the season on Friday. A side so fluid in their front line and with many crafty players to come up against. Did Ndala do well? No, he did brilliantly.
Boasting such an average frame, he won all his duels both aerially and on the ground. In possession he kept all those hounding him down at an arm’s length. We must also mention Katoh Haggai – who is almost impossible to mark – someone Ndala ensured he had a quiet enough affair. The youngster hit the woodwork with a venomous strike.
He was just as influential and was sensational off the ball. His ability to retain the ball in tight spaces is amongst the best in the NPFL and his off-the-ball work cannot be undestated.
In total, he made four interceptions – more than any other player. He also won two fouls.
Ndala bossed the midfield battle, was a key factor in winning the game against his former team and he was deservedly Man of the Match.
It was all too safe
When Nasarawa United committed bodies forward and got it into advanced positions with numbers, opportunities were made. A second half that looked good, without being spectacular in any way, had its best moments when Ini Edem would gallop down the left flank and Abubakar Abdullahi would run at the right channels.
If you play a system that has no out and out No. 10, the full-backs or wing-backs are imperative to the offering creativity in wide areas.
Silas Nwankwo’s chance was born out of the back four pushing up a few yards and the midfield closing the gaps between themselves and the forward line. Keeping the Plateau United players occupied, it allowed Haggai to make the runs in between defenders without the added strain of being marked touch tight. His neat give and go’s on the edge of the area are so effective, but he was prevented from expressing himself in that manner with the overly cautious approach.
Ini Edem – The real gem
The youngster produced an excellent performance against Plateau United as he was a threat to the Peace Boys’ defence and also excelled at his defensive duties.
Ini is finally coming out of his shell and his growing confidence is starting to show on the pitch.
He has raised his hand to indicate that he is ready to be Nasarawa United’s first-choice left-back.
Abba Umar – Out of form and tired
Umar remains one of Plateau United’s most important attackers, but he has failed to score or assist this season.
Against Nasarawa United, Umar was simply not good enough as he missed two easy chances.
Abba Umar will probably get back to his best soon, but a couple of games out of the squad will give him a proper rest could do him a world of good.
Nasarawa United struggled with aerial balls
The duo of Tebo Franklin and Uzochukwu Chigozie paired at the centre defence. They were often flat and looked questionable in aerial situations. These allowed Ibrahim Babawo and Amos Gyang to drop crosses in the Nasarawa United box.
On a few occasions there were runs in behind that weren’t picked out properly – Uzochukwu Chigozie was at fault for a few which is understandable – yet the team look stunted and lacking in ideas with each pass of the ball.