Ten-man Lobi Stars forced Enyimba to a 0-0 draw in a Matchday 4 encounter decided at the Enyimba Stadium in Aba on Wednesday.
Lobi were playing their first league game of the season after weeks of participation in the CAF Champions League and made their exposure count as they earned a point their composure deserved in Aba.
Right-back John Lazarus was sent off for Lobi four minutes from time for a second bookable offence and either side would think they could have won the game of missed chances.
Enyimba made six changes to the team which lost 3-2 against Kwara United in Ilorin on Sunday with goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai and left-back Benjamin Francis making their first starts of the season. Forwards Abdulrahman Bashir and Ibrahim Mustapha however continued upfront with coach Usman Abdallah encouraged by their understanding upfront.
The People’s Elephant almost made a dream start to the game but Bashir missed the first of what would be many chances in the third minute. The striker, totally left unmarked inside the box headed Francis’ left wing cross over the bar.
The visitors continued to sit back in the opening minutes but when they attempted to go forward, they were almost caught at the back. Mustapha and Bashir combined well after ten minutes but the latter shot over from 12 yards, under pressure from Lobi goalkeeper Olufemi Kayode.
Kayode would then produce a super save in the 24th minute to deny Enyimba centre-back Ifeanyi Anaemena who rose highest in the box to meet Thomas Zenke’s corner. The former Akwa United goalkeeper dived high and quick to his left to smother Anaemena’s header.
Enyimba totally dominated the first half, leaving their opponents with just one attempt on goal but Bashir, midfielder Austin Oladapo and winger Stanley Dimgba wasted further chances after some brilliant work by their teammates.
Chances were few and far between in the opening 20 minutes of the second half but Lobi did show some intent going forward. The intent was perhaps necessitated by the substitution of Ezekiel Mbah for Ivorian Yaya Kone who brought more creativity to the side.
Enyimba also made changes of their own, Freedom Omofoman replacing Dimgba while Chukwuka Onuwa replaced Thomas Zenke as Enyimba searched for their own creativity. While the former league champions became anxious in their search, Solomon Ogbeide’s Lobi found spaces to exploit at Enyimba’s rear.
Former El-Kanemi star Samuel Mathias was denied by an alerted save by Afelokhai nine minutes from time before Lazarus got sent off for a second bookable offence after a foul on Omofoman. Ogbeide promptly sent on centre-back Ekene Olisema to fill the vacuum created by Lazarus’ dismissal.
Shortly before Olisema’s introduction for Austin Ogunye though, the attacker was presented with a golden opportunity to make Enyimba pay further for their profligacy but Afelokhai perfectly read his intentions, standing tall to save his chipped effort.