Akwa United head coach Rafael Everton has praised the character shown by former side, FC Ifeanyiubah in their 2-1 loss and acknowledged that the Anambra Warriors presented the toughest challenge yet for his team at the ongoing 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Championship Playoffs even as he put their loss down to inexperience.
A second-half brace from substitute Cyril Olisema canceled out Emmanuel Ugwuka’s first-half strike to give The Promise Keepers a first win in the Super Six playoffs after they drew 2-2 with Kano Pillars in their first match. The victory moved Akwa United level on four points with Kano Pillars at the top of the log although the Sai Masu Gida have a superior goals difference.
Everton, who was playing a side with whom he won the Federation Cup in 2016 said although his former side showed “character”, his current team were able to triumph by virtue of being much more experienced than the Anambra Warriors.
“They’re a good team,” Everton said in the aftermath of his side’s 2-1 triumph at the Agege Township Stadium.
“They are young players and they showed character but when you play against young players you need to use experience and my players used experience. The time you play against young players it’s a different type of game; it’s a physical game, the time you go to meet big teams it’s tactical game, I think it was a difficult game for us.”
The Brazilian tactician has shown a penchant for effecting games with substitutions at the earliest opportunity when things are not going to plan. In the opening game against Kano Pillars, with his side 2-1 down in the first half, he withdrew fellow Brazilian Alberico Da Silva for Mfon Udoh whose first act was to fashion out an assist to help Akwa United draw level.
He was at it again on Thursday, with Akwa United 1-0 down, taking off Udoh who had been restored to the starting eleven and Da Silva yet again for Cyril Olisema and Paul Obata in the 42nd minute. Olisema went on to score the game-winning brace and Everton said his “tactical change” was needed to correct the course of the game.
“It was a tactical change, I removed him [Mfon Udoh] and the Brazilian Alberico Da Silva, it was a tactical change to give us more presence on the flanks and the second half I spoke to the boys to open the flanks to create more chances for us.
“It’s a tactical game, before the game we had one situation in the game but the game changed when the opponent scored, we needed a goal and by God’s grace this one worked and it helped us.”
Akwa United next face Enugu Rangers in the third round of fixtures at the Super Six on Saturday, 8 June 2019.