Record holders for the most consecutive unbeaten games in the Nigeria Professional Football League, Bendel Insurance, have a mountain to climb ahead of their match-day four ties against reigning champions Rivers United in the ongoing 2022/23 NPFL Super 6 playoffs on Friday (today), as they seek to put an end to their streak of draws and also aim for the title, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
Despite being unbeaten in 21 games in the league this season, Benin Arsenal’s achievement has been overshadowed by their inability to win games, having won just one in their last 12 games.
First, it was special, now it’s boring. Insurance have gone from the adorable unbeaten team in the NPFL to a predictable team or even more direct, draw specialists.
While they progressed in the league and have also reached the Federation Cup final, there are concerns about whether the once-firing Benin Arsenal have run out of gunpowder, but that has been under the smokescreen of their progress in the NPFL, as well as the Federation Cup.
Although they did enough in the regular season to make it to the Super 6 playoffs, their struggles have been laid to bare in the best-of-six contest in Lagos as they have drawn their three games so far, putting them in a difficult situation of becoming underachievers in the league despite their invincibility tag.
After winning seven out of nine games in the first stanza, they followed it up with five consecutive draws before managing a 2-1 win over El-Kanemi Warriors in April. Since then, they have played six more draws in the regular season and the playoffs.
The score lines of those games were characterised by nine 1-1 draws, with one ending goalless. What this suggests is their inability to outscore their opponents as they did in the first stanza of the season. This might not be unconnected with their highest goal scorer, Osarenkhoe Imade, whose last goal and eighth of the season was against Akwa United in March.
“Scoring has definitely been the problem. Even with the best of defensive displays, they have not been able to outscore their opponents in many games and if you look at the scoreline, it’s been mostly 1-1,” SuperSport analyst, Aikhoje Ojeikere, told PUNCH Sports Extra.
“It’s been a while Imade scored, even in their game against Enyimba he didn’t start and still came off the bench but it was all flashes still. Truly there are other players, but the conversion rate has been poor lately.”
A Lagos-based fan of the club, Godwin Pauke, who was at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena to watch them against Enyimba on Wednesday, also expressed worry about the potential damage the run of form could mean for their season.
“It is true we are unbeaten after 21 games this season but to what effect? Consecutive draws in six games will not win us the title, so, the boys must change things in their last two games as well as the FA Cup final against Enugu Rangers,” Pauke told PUNCH Sports Extra.
At the post-match presser on Wednesday, coach Monday Odigie, in his usual manner, played down the context of being unbeaten and was seemingly indifferent about the performance of his team.
“Being unbeaten is not the issue, every game we just try to get better,” he said.
The Benin Arsenal might be retreating from gunning for a double in the league and the FA Cup this season, but they still have full control over their upcoming Federation Cup final against Enugu Rangers next Thursday in Asaba.
Before then, they must find their firepower against Rivers United and Remo Stars in their last two games in order not to leave the Super 6 empty-handed.