FUAD Ekelojuti is a name you will be hearing in Nigerian football for a long time to come. The bow legged bearded left winger of the true vintage mould ensured that the entire defence of Calabar’s Unicem Rovers earned every penny of their match allowance Sunday afternoon at the Onikan waterfront. Fuad was one of seven new faces in Stationery Stores’ starting eleven after the club maximally exploited the week 9 transfer window to overhaul the team which in the last three games seemed to have lost its competitive spirit.
Calabar Rovers wasted no time in reminding all and sundry that, next to Stores they are the kings of jogo bonito, having produced a long list of supreme ball jugglers; James Etokebe, Isong Isang, Etim Esin etc etc, for Nigeria in the past. They played the ball on the ground, caressing and juggling with a very positive intent, only that they met their match this time around as Super Stores were more than equal to the task.
With experienced coach Fatai Amoo calling the shots, the difference in Stores’ game was very clear, as the players added a clear sense of direction to their well orchestrated tiki taka. Full backs Hassan Oladimeji and Gideon Tinat as well as striker Festus Ajah and right winger Rilwan Jelelola were the four survivors from the previous team that made the starting eleven, and like magic they put up such a brilliant show that made fans wonder what happened to them these past few weeks.
New striker Jonathan Aigbe was clearly feeling the pressure of putting on the flaming jersey for the first time, and so was shortly yanked off for a more composed Akeem Arewa, and what an inspired substitution: Akeem needed only a few minutes to score a scintillating first goal for Stores in the dying minutes of the first half.
Fuad was creating loads of chances from the flanks, but Festus Ajah in particular was not in his elements as he missed two golden chances in the second half.
Eleazar Okorie replaced Emmanuel Obinna in the second half, only to injure his arm after being ruthlessly hacked in a melee. No problems though, as there was a world class ambulance on standby to immediately whisk him to the hospital. He was replaced by the fans’ favourite, Quadri Adeniregun who drew mammoth applause as he came in for the last few minutes of the game.
Jelelola was to pay Rovers back for injuring his mate in the best possible fashion: At the end of another superb team work from the Stores midfield, Jele got his half chance and rifled home a thunderous shot which almost tore the net into pieces, confirming the full three points for Stores on the day.
GOALKEEPER: Anthony Okoro 7
. Pulled some great saves to keep Stores in the game.
RIGHT BACK: Michael Lawal 6
. Worked well on the right.
LEFT BACK: Hassan Dimeji 7
. Motivated a lot of attacks from the left as usual.
CENTRE HALF: Olatunde Adesegun 6
. Composed and solid.
CENTRE BACK: Tinat Gideon 7
. Stood firm and composed as usual
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Waheed Ganiu 6
. Good game.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Jelelola 7
. Wherever he got the inspiration from today; Fantastic game.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Emmanuel Obinna 6
. A good schemer in the works; good left foot.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Fuad Ekelojuoti (MVP) 8
. Virtuoso: Every touch was dangerous.
STRIKER: Festus Ajah 5
. To be a good striker you have to take that extra risk, Festus!
STRIKER: Jonathan Aigbe 4
. Spent 30 minutes admiring his priceless Stores jersey. A potential.
STRIKER: Akeem Arewa (replcd Jonathan) 7
. Came off the bench to light up the game with the first goal
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Eleazar Okorie (replaced Obinna) 6
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Quadri Adeniregun (replcd Okorie) 6
COACH: Fatai Amoo
MATCH WRAP UP
Fuad is here to stay. The spirit was back and the Coach was decisive in taking decisions. “Tj” gave the fans good entertainment off the field, and all put together it looks like the real journey is just beginning.