The coast looks clear for Bendel Insurance Football Club of Benin as their quest to return to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is certain after thrashing Gateway United Football Club 4-0 in a rescheduled Nigeria National League (NNL) week 18 Match played at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, Edo State.
The match played on Wednesday 6th July, 2022 evening in Benin was the talk of the town as it was considered by most NNL followers as the star match of the second stanza of the season and key decider in the battle for the NPFL sole ticket from Group B1 between the two giants.
Visiting Gateway Utd FC were hyped to be possible stumbling block and the only obstacles that could hamper or delay Insurance entrance into the promise land, but the match turned out to be the easiest hurdle crossed by the Benin Arsenals.
As the battle began in the ancient city of Benin, Sodje Stephens opened scoring from the spot for coach Monday Odigie led Insurance just five minutes into the game after Imade Osarenkhoe was hacked down in the penalty box by Gateway right back man.
The battle continued to rage with the visitors looking good but the pressure from Insurance attack trio of Imade Osarenkhoe, Sarki Ismael and Taiwo Oripelaye caused Gateway United player helping their host in the 30th minutes put the ball into the back of his own net following a deflection that went too high for Goalkeeper Araromi Ibukun to give Insurance a 2 goal lead.
Sarki Ismael made it 3-0 for Insurance in the 34th minute, as the Benin Arsenal went into the dressing room with a comfortable 3-0 lead after the half time break whistle.
On return to the field for the remaining half,the visitors came better and dangerous in their attack but the hosts were more than determined and showed that they know how to kill the game.
In the 78th minute, substitute Echeta Deputy put the game beyond the reach of the already injured visitors when he scored a screamer from the left flank to make it 4-0 for the Benin Arsenals.
Insurance FC are now in pole position for the NPFL return with 43 points, seven points clear of their closest challengers Gateway Utd whose gates were completely shut in Benin.
The Benin Arsenal will be playing host to Ikorodu City FC in another midweek fixture next week and a win for group B1 leaders and loss for Gateway Utd at Vandrezzer FC in Lagos will confirm Insurance FC return to the elite football division with two games to spare.
Meanwhile Chairman of Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Comrade Festus Alenkhe led other journalists in the state to cheer up Bendel Insurance to victory.
The side attraction of the day was the presentation of N20,000 to the first goal scorer Sodje Stephens from Comrade Festus Alenkhe, a promise he has maintained even before he became the Chairman of Edo State Council of NUJ.