Plateau United will end 2023 in fifth position on the Nigeria Premier Football League table after a hard-earned home win over Sporting Lagos in Jos on Thursday evening.
On the back of an away defeat to Kwara United in Ilorin, Plateau needed a win to move closer to the top four. Sporting was also keen on snatching points in Jos after a disappointing draw with bottom-placed Bayelsa United in Lagos last week.
Chris Nwaeze missed the trip to Ilorin due to injury but was returned to the home side’s squad, while midfielders Jimmy Ambrose and Charles Henlong missed out due to suspensions.
Sporting was also missing key players, with striker Junior Lokosa the most noticeable.
Plateau quick off the blocks
Plateau United started the game on the front foot, with Nenrot Silas and Muhammad Umar running rings around the Sporting defence. Goalkeeper Christian Nwoke, recently named in the Super Eagles AFCON provisional squad, kept the home side at bay in the first half.
Sporting did have their chances, as Jonathan Alukwu twice found himself alone in the box with John Amah at his mercy but couldn't convert, while Chisom Orji's 35-yard shot stung the palms of the Plateau goalkeeper.
The second half was all Plateau, but Sporting stood firm until the 76th minute, when Daniel Itodo launched one of his trademark long throws that caused mayhem in the opposition’s box. After bubbling all over the place, the ball fell kindly for Albert Hilary to jab home and score the winner. It was his fourth goal in three games and took his tally to seven goals this season.
Plateau coach Mangut happy with victory
Speaking to Afrik-foot after the game, Plateau United coach Mbwas Mangut said that his lads had to dig deep to get maximum points from a difficult encounter.
“It was a difficult game against a very difficult and good team. We had to take our time and be calm in front of goal, and I am happy we won at the end of the day,” Mangut told Afrik-foot.
“They were very disciplined with their organization and reverse play. They were patient while containing all our ball circulation and trying to create space to penetrate us.
“We showed character and kept doing what we know how to do, and we were able to get the result we wanted,” the former Deportivo Cali midfielder added.
With the victory over Sporting Lagos, Plateau United will start 2024 placed fifth on the table after collecting 25 points from 15 games, with a game and an outstanding game against Rivers United. NPFL debutant Sporting is ten places below them in 15th with 17 points.