Reuben Nicodemus was the hero when Nasarawa United beat Wikki Tourists 2-1 in the season opener at Lafia City Stadium.
The left-back, who had just returned from the U-20 nations team camp, scored a double to deliver the highest score to Bala Nikyu’s sentinels.
With Chinedu Ohanocham leading the line for the Solid Miners, Nicodemus’ offensive disposition from deep within attracted attention. He was the team’s biggest threat in the final third, linking well with Aliyu Abdulahi Adamu on the left.
When he wasn’t throwing incisor crosses into the opposition area, he was throwing canons at the bow.
However, it looked like the hosts were in shock when Promise Damala led Manu Garba’s cut in the 5th minute. But their lead lasted just two minutes when Nicodemus squeezed the ball over Stanley Nwabali from a very sharp angle.
The goalkeeper looked forward from the tight angle, but Nicodemus rather aimed at the goal by catching the goalkeeper off guard.
The well-groomed visitors who had started the game with a front foot were not tied up by goal.
With Chinedu Udeagha pulling the strings in the middle of the park, Idriss Guda, Manu Garba and Damala ensured that Solid Miners defenders never had a break.
In the 10th minute, Guda put Nasarawa goalkeeper Danlami Umar to the test with a header to a Garba cross.
Six minutes later, Umar kicked the ball directly to Udeagha. The playmaker tried a balloon that just went away.
In the 23rd minute, Udeagha put the ball on a plate for Guda, who shot agonizingly wide when a little composure would have helped his cause.
Guda regularly ran those runs behind the Nasarawa defense and enjoyed quality service from Garba and Udeagha.
In the 30th minute, Guda was chosen again. Tebo Franklin sensed the danger and just as the forward applied the first touch that should move him away from the defender and free him in goal, he was knocked down. It was a huge respite for Danlami, who had already exhausted himself to salvage the situation just as Franklin was lucky to avoid a reservation.
Nasarawa fought back in the 43rd minute when Uzochukwu Chigozie responded with a free kick from Haggai Katoh, but the header went off the bar. The rebound fell for Ohanocham who fired wide.
The hosts went out smoking in the second part. A minute after the restart, Nicodemus found a fumble around the ‘D’ but his volley narrowly missed.
In the 52nd minute, the lively left-back deflected into the box and overtook Nwabali. A goal that any striker will envy.
Nasarawa kept up the pace and in the 60th minute, Ohanocham made a quick move for Adamu Abdulahi, who hit the ball once, but Semiu Liadi blocked in a corner.
The introduction of former international junior King Osanga added more firepower to the hosts. In the 80th minute, Osanga put Silas Nwankwo face to face with Nwabali. Nwankwo’s effort went on target, but Nwabali got big and kicked into the corner.
Two minutes later, Osanga came across Abubakar Abdulahi’s cut on the edge of the box and his curling iron was not that far off target.
While the visitors, now propelled by substitute Kingsley Edwin, pushed towards the leveler, the hosts looked menacing at the counter with the experienced Osanga always searching for his teammates.