Truly, derbies come with a great spark and entertaining play and such was the case at the Soccer Temple, Agege on Saturday, May 15, 2021 as home boys Vandrezzer FC were visitors to fellow Lagos team Stationery Stores in a five goal thriller marred by half-baked officiating by the Centre Referee on the day, Alajiki Joel.
The reverse fixture on matchday nine produced two goals in the wake of crystal clear and fair officiating as the Lions deservingly cruised to a 2-0 victory. Such level-playing field was expected of Saturday's second leg, barely seven weeks after, with the two Lagos-based teams slugging it out for supremacy - but was that the case?
Let's find out.
The game got underway at 16:00 Hrs GMT with the hosts getting an early opener in the 22nd minute via Jamiu Okedare. The Lions showed no relent as they won considerate number of deserving freekicks in the opponents' half with none of the takes yielding the desired result until Amos Okoro's stoppage time kick which hit the crossbar, narrowly missing the target. Halftime scores stood at 1-0 in favour of Stationery Stores despite VFC dominating the game with the most goal attempts.
Coach Tony Bolus introduced power-midfielder Lawrence Effiong (in the first quarter of the second half) who has been out for seven matchdays, last featuring for the Lions on Matchday six against Rovers FC in Calabar, before an injury which forced him out for weeks.
Stores extended their lead via Ihemekwele Ifeanyi's strike in the 71st minute. The Lions fought hard for the last 20 mins of the game and were visibly the much improved side, no wonder it paid off with three quick goals, one of which was disallowed by referee Alakiji Joel.
First, It was Kolawole Daniel (The Bull) who gave a quick response to Stores' second goal, three minutes on.Then, Lawrence Effiong made it two goals up for the Lions' in the 85th minute, with a classy strike that left the opponents' goalkeeper in shock.
With five minutes left of regular time left, and a further four minutes of added time, VFC ensured they made good use of the nine estimated minutes with Coach Bolus taking off Amos Okoro and introducing Somtochukwu Abraham to the attack.
Somto, who was making only his second appearance for the Lions', had no troubles settling in quickly as he was involved in two successive goal making decisions which was called off by Referee Alakiji Joel.
The first scenario was from a cornerkick taken by David Mark. Somto was quick to link up play via a header which went straight into goal but dramatically was ruled out with no infringement spotted in build up to the goal.
As if that wasn't enough, penalty call was overlooked as Somto encountered a one on one opportunity with Stores' goalkeeper Titiosho Idris who clearly committed a foul on the VFC man by kicking him in his upper abdomen in a challenge for the ball in the area, without evidently coming in contact with the ball.
Referee Alajiki Joel rather chose to pass that action with no booking and infringement calls for that scenario.
Stores' Ihemekwele Ifeanyi registered his brace in the game by scoring a third goal, right after VFC's Saheed Obisesan was pushed in opponents 18- yard box and the referee again turned a blind eye to that but instead allowed the Stores' goal to stand, thus ending the game at 3-2 in favour of the hosts.
While the referee is yet to explain why he ruled out a clear goal without infringement or offside, let us for avoidance of doubt, state what FIFA says about unsporting behaviour which was clearly displayed when we had two penalty calls waved off by the centre referee:
"If a player commits an offence, or interferes with, or fouls a player to deny an obvious goalscoring opportunity, the referee cautions/sends off the player and awards a penalty kick..."
VFC have now been robbed by questionable officiating twice in three three match days, the penultimate one being the dissallowance of a clear goal on Match day 12 against Dynamite Force in Iyamho, and the referee also turning as blind eye to some infringements against VFC.
The Lions next take on visiting Go Round FC in Matchday 15, but the question remains - how long will they suffer at the hands of the arbitars of the game who are clearly going against the true ethics of the game?
Poor and bias officiating is a major factor killing Nigerian football and scaring investors away!
If nothing definite is done to stem this ugly tide, then Nigerian football will surely remain in the doldrums.
Vandrezzer FC...won't walk that road without you!