Chinonso Okonkwo missed a last minute penalty for Rivers United in a rip-roaring Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest which they lost 0-1 to Lobi Stars on Sunday.
Moses Bunde handled in the box following a shot from Christian Weli but Okonkwo fired wildly from 12 yards to send the visiting supporters into fits of despair.
It was a dramatic end to a game that ebbed and flowed with the home side taking the fight to the visitors early on.
The pre-match build up was dominated by news that Lobi’s two main attacking weapons, Kingsley Eduwo and Anthony Okpotu would miss the game as a result of suspension.
In the absence of the two accomplished strikers, it was Lobi that started the brighter of the two sides with Ekleche Sunny, Ikeokwu Patrick and David Tyavkase excelling in the final third of the visitors.
Lobi should have taken the lead in the 11th minute as the electrifying Ekleche escaped his markers before laying the ball on a plate for the onrushing Kone Yaya Sumaila.
Sumaila picked his spot from seven yards but saw his effort beaten out impressively by the Rivers United goal keeper, Sunday Rotimi.
United captain had their backs against the wall for long stretches in the opening half but captain, Festus Austin and Rotimi ensured the visitors remained with a fighting chance with exemplary performances.
Bernard Ovoke, United’s pin up boy attempted to take matters into his own hands and almost scored the opening goal of the contest but saw his half volley fly wide after he did the hard bit of creating space by classily spinning on a six pence in the Lobi penalty area.
Lobi continued to boss proceedings and almost scored on 20 minutes through Ikeokwu only for the striker to be denied by a heroic Austin block.
Two minutes later, Rotimi produced yet another big save that left him temporarily injured to deny Akleche who thought he had scored.
The onslaught from the home side continued with the post coming to Rotimi’s rescue after Tyavkase powerful shot just about stayed out with the veteran goal keeper left for dead in the 26th minute.
Sumaila came close for the hosts again in the 33rd minute with an excellent free kick which the outstanding Rotimi saved at the second time of asking.
It was a game for the ages as the chances continued to come and go with United almost scoring in the 35th minute as Ovoke got on the end of a deflected Okonkwo free kick which fortuitously fell towards his path.
The darting winger rounded the Lobi Stars goalkeeper, Okiemute Odah but his goal bound effort was cleared off the line with the away bench already erupting in celebration.
The tempo of the game was unbelievably high and the atmosphere electric as the two sides continued to trade chances in a wonderfully-entertaining half of football.
Obomate failed to score from a free kick moments later while Sumaila and Tyakvase wasted chances for the hosts as the half came to a close.
The second half failed to match the first in terms of the tempo attained but bettered it for entertainment value.
Just after the hour mark, Lobi was awarded a penalty after Gabriel Olalekan was adjudged to have handled in the box.
Akleche is a man with nerves of steel and he ruthlessly sent the hitherto peerless Rotimi the wrong way to send the home fans into raptures.
Two minutes after Akleche had put Lobi in front, the home side appeared to have pressed the self-destruct button as Solomon Kwambe received a second bookable offence after he kicked out at a sprawling Okonkwo.
Match Day 19 results:
Plateau Utd 0-0 Pillars
Wolves 3-1 El-Kanemi
Wikki 3-0 Ikorodu Utd
Abia Warriors 1-2 Sunshine
Lobi 1-0 Rivers Utd
FC Ifeanyiubah 2-0 Tornadoes
Akwa Utd 2-0 Shooting Stars
Enyimba 1-0 Nasarawa Utd
Rangers 0-0 Heartland