By Finecountry Azubuike David
Bayelsa Striker, Robert Mizo started off from where he left last season by getting a hat-trick on the opening day of the new Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season for the Prosperity Boys against south-south neighbours Akwa United at the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa on Saturday.
Akwa United started the better side in the game which saw them getting the first attempt of the game in the fourth minute but Bayelsa United goalkeeper Kevin Ogunga was on hand to prevent his side from conceding an early goal.
Bayelsa United grew into the game as the minutes went by in the early exchanges but it was Akwa United who took the lead in the 20th minute through Hadi Mohammed’s finish after a mistimed clearance from the Bayelsa United defence to give the Promise Keepers the lead.
With a goal behind, the Prosperity Boys started to control the game as they searched for the equalizer and duly got the equalizer through Alex Jerry after debutant Olatunbosun Oginni’s cross found him unmarked in the 18-yard box in the 27th minute of the game to level the score at 1-1.
Bayelsa United will continue to dominate the game with some beautiful neat intricate passes but it was Akwa United who went in front again after midfielder Seyi Oguntayo deflected shot from 25 yards out beat Kelvin Ogunga of Bayelsa United in goal to give the visitors a 2-1 lead in the 38th minute.
Just when it seemed like the first half will end in favour of the visitors, Mizo got his first goal of the season in the 45th minute after some neat footwork by Ekeson Okorie to put him through on goal, the striker made no mistake in bringing his team level as the first half ended 2-2.
At the start of the second half Bayelsa United switched to a 4-4-2 formation and took control of the game as Akwa United sat back and tried to play on the counter. The Prosperity Boys almost took the lead in the 68th minute through substitute Tekena Gerando but his volley was punched away by Jean Efala in goal for Akwa United.
With Bayelsa United in control of the game, the visitors took the lead again in what was definitely the peak of the bunch. Oguntayo’s shot from 35 yards flew past the helpless goalkeeper of Bayelsa United in the 75th minute to give Akwa United the lead for the third time in the game.
With that goal, Bayelsa United head coach Diepreye Teibowei was forced to make an attacking change. John Bassey was brought on for his debut and in the 82nd minute, Akwa United substitute Etim Mathew was the culprit as his back pass found Mizo who made no mistake in punishing the visitors to tie the game at 3-3.
Just when it seemed like the game will end in a draw, Mizo rose the highest to head in Oginni’s corner kick to give Bayelsa United the lead in the 87th minute for the first time in the game to complete his hat-trick.
Akwa United players were left with no option than to come out to chase the equalizer, but were punished again as the recently introduced John Bassey made easy work of his marker to square the ball to Emmanuel Nneoyi who made no mistake in beating Efala to double the home team’s lead.
Speaking to the media after the game, Bayelsa United head coach Teibowei said that he was happy with his boys for always coming from behind against a very good side in Akwa United.
He added that playing with two strikers up front was the key to his team’s victory after switching formation midway through the second half.
As for his counterpart and Akwa United head coach Fatai Osho who was visibly upset with the result, branded the result as “a big shame” after leading three times in the game.
He added that a lot of elementary errors were made by his team, and such mistakes are always punished in top level football.
Bayelsa United will take on Doma United at the Pantami Stadium in Gombe next week while Akwa United will be at home to newcomers Sporting Lagos at the Nest of Champions, Uyo.