Going into Matchday 26 which holds at the weekend, Rivers United maintain their four-point advantage over Plateau United in the Nigeria Professional Football League. Both sides delivered the desired results on Monday with the Pride of Rivers hammering Niger Tornadoes 3-0 in Port Harcourt, while Plateau United managed just one strike over visiting Remo Stars to peg the latter back at No 4.
Matchday 25 continues on Tuesday with Nasarawa United hosting Dakkada, while the two remaining matches – Abia Warriors v MFM and Kano Pillars v Sunshine Stars – will not come on until next week Wednesday.
After their second defeat of the season last Matchday which slowed down their push for the title, Rivers United needed to make a big statement. And they indeed showed class making a big claim on the title with an empathic result.
The season’s top scorer, Ishaq Rafiu Kayode put the Pride of Port Harcourt in front in the 30th minute as he finished off a through pass from Morice Chukwu with a chip over Lucky Jimoh.
Rivers doubled their lead two minutes after as Nwagua Nyima tapped in a low cross from Chijioke Akuneto following a spill by Tornadoes’ keeper in the box.
With 10 minutes to end the game, substitute Konan Ruffin Ngouan made quick impact to put the icing on the cake for the leaders as he stabbed home Rivers’ third after he was released by Nelson Esor in Tornadoes’ box.
The victory meant Rivers United retained their top position on the log with 55 points after 25 league games.
Tornadoes coach, Abubakar Bala Mohammed accepted responsibility for the defeat.
“It was a bad day. We came with a very good match plan and played very well but along the line around 30-33 minutes, we conceded two goals in the space of three minutes due to defensive lapses. The quick goals broke us down.
“This is one of our worst games since we began this season but there’s no shame in that as we lost to a very good side. We’ll go and work on the lapses seen today”, he said.
Esor who replaced Chiamaka Mafu for Rivers United in first half, came in and put up a man-of-the-match performance with two assists. He was very excited with his contribution to the team.
“I’m very happy that I came in and gave two assists. It was a nice and good game. We got the three maximum points with three goals. We played with a lot of confidence and courage playing at home”, Esor told www.npfl.ng
He has been a regular feature in the team since he joined from Go Round FC four years ago and is confident that River United would emerge champions for the first time at the end of this season.
In Jos, the Tin City Boys kept the chase on leaders Rivers United close following a hard earned 1-0 win over Remo Stars, thanks to second half header from Ibrahim Buhari.
The hosts could have taken the lead within the opening five minutes, but Jesse Akila’s goal was chalked off for offside after the referee had spotted an infringement in the build up to the goal.
Plateau United dominated for most part of the first half, but met a strong Remo Stars rear line with a calculative goalkeeper in Kayode Bankole, who thwarted their efforts.
Whatever Fidelis Ilechukwu told his boys in the dugout worked for them as they used it to raid Remo’s defence to earn the lone goal in the 55th minute. Free scoring defender, Ibrahim Buhari rose highest to prod home from Akila Jesse’s cross for his fourth goal of the season.
Remo rallied late in the game with moments of dominance but the host held on to secure the match points.
The result means that Remo Stars conceded the crucial third spot to Rangers. Three teams from the top flight league will represent Nigeria in continental competitions next season.
At their temporary home in Awka, Rangers banged in three goals in the first half to bounce back to winning ways on Sunday.
Coach Abdul Maigaba kept faith with the squad that lost narrowly to Niger Tornadoes midweek in Kaduna, except for Chidiebere Nwobodo, Olawale Doyeni and Chidiebere Nwobodo.
Ossy Martins grabbed a brace with Chidiebere Nwobodo adding another in an 18-minute blitz of quality football from the home side.
Kwara ‘keeper Emmanuel Iwu failed to handle a Shedrack Asiegbu’s well drilled shot from the edge of the box and Ossy Martins reacted the fastest to the spilled ball to stab home the opening goal of the encounter in the fourth minute.
At the quarter-hour mark, another slip from the keeper gifted Chidiebere Nwobodo the opportunity to increase the tally for the home side.
Martins scored his second of the day in the 18th minute when he was expertly set up by Chukwuebuka Okorie from the edge of the box as the defenders failed to spot the danger.
In his post-match remarks, Rangers chief coach Mbwas Mangut said: “It was a good match that went the way we planned it as the goals came early in the fixture, which gave us the confidence to play some good football. But, in the second half our opponent came out stronger and created some opportunities which we defended well. We continue to work on the weak link in the team as we prepare for coming matches”.
In Ibadan, enterprising midfielder Moses Omoduemeke combined well with Lucky Moses to give Shooting Stars the lead in the 14th minute against Enyimba in Ibadan.
The goal scorer then become the provider for the second goal with five minutes to end the first half when he fed Emmanuel Lucky, who made a simple tap in to send the home fans into frenzy.
The second period was more of an exchange in control with Enyimba making series of incursions to stage a comeback but it was too late for the Finidi George boys as Shooting protected their first half goals.
Sunday results: Akwa United 1-0 Lobi Stars, Gombe United 1-0 Katsina United, Rangers 3-0 Kwara United
Monday results: Plateau United 1-0 Remo Stars, Shooting Stars 2-0 Enyimba, Wikki Tourists 0-0 Heartland, Rivers United 3-0 Niger Tornadoes
Tuesday: Nasarawa United v Dakkada FC (4 pm)