A game of grit is anticipated this evening at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt where continental club hopefuls Remo Stars will hope to rattle log leaders Rivers United as MatchDay 29 fixtures are concluded this evening in the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League.
Rivers United currently lead Plateau United, the closest side to them, by four points, which will likely be extended given that the Tin City team lost by 0-2 yesterday at Abia Warriors.
The Pride of Rivers have a fine home record heading into this game, having picked maximum points at home since the commencement of the second stanza, scoring a total of 11 goals without conceding in four games.
Remo Stars are pushing to finish at least third to quality for a continental competition in their first season of returning to the topflight. The contest for No 3 is essentially between the Sky Blue Stars and Rangers, who won yesterday to have a two-point edge over the fourth placed team from Ikenne-Remo.
With two wins and five draws on the road to their name this season, the Stars come into this game on the back of a morale boosting 1-0 victory over Rangers last Sunday.
Both teams have meant five times, Rivers United winning four matches while the other ended in deadlock.
Fifth placed Kwara United visit Gombe United, who occupy the last but one spot in the upper half of the table. It is not over for the Harmony Boys in the quest for third spot as they stand five points adrift with nine matches remaining.
The same situation applies to Enyimba and title holders Akwa United, who are respectively six and seven points behind third placed Rangers.
It’s desperate time for the teams in dangers; MFM leading that pack. Even if they win today in Ibadan against Shooting Stars, the Olukoya Boys will only move a step from the base.
Kano Pillars and Heartland face-off in a fixture of the relegation sides.
Tony Ademodi reports that Plateau United saw their title aspiration in tatters after going down 0-2 in Okigwe to Abia Warriors yesterday evening, . Innocent Gabriel and Imeh Atobasi scored for the Warriors after Jesse Akila fluffed a good chance for United to take the lead through the spot on 27th minute.
The home side started the game with intent early in the third minute, after Paul Samson saw his effort on goal from about 10 metres going off target.
The fifth minute saw Warriors’ top scorer Valentine Odoh, dribble his way from the midfield into Plateau United’s penalty box, but his effort at goal went centimetres wide.
Plateau United however had their chance to open scoring in the 27th minute, after Jesse Akila was upended inside the box by Abia Warriors defender Innocent Gabriel for a spot kick.
The resultant penalty kick by Akila was saved by keeper Pius Ibrahim.
In the 35th minute, Plateau’s goalkeeper Abiodun Akande failed to clear his line, and Abia Warriors went into the break leading 1-0 through Gabriel’s kick.
United came out stronger in the second half looking for an equaliser, and it almost materialised in the 50th minute when Mohammed Zulkifilu had a chance at goal, but his shot wasn’t directed well.
Needing to strengthen his midfield play, Abia Warriors coach Imama Amapakabor introduced Imeh Atobasi and Yakubu Hameed for Kalu Nweke and Godwin Obaje in the 59th minute. From the opposite bench, Fidelis Ilechukwu brought in Emmanuel Uchegbu and Abubakar Umar for Mohammed Zilkifilu and Jesse Akila in the 63rd minute. Those changes brought more life into the game.
Despite the ceaseless pressure by Plateau United to level scores, it was Abia Warriors that increased their lead in added time, turning defensive play into offence after substitute Lukman Bello’s pass found onrushing Chidi Nwachukwu on the right flank. And the midfielder wasted no time to connect Atoabasi, who slotted home to hand the Umuahia-based club the maximum points.
At the Awka City Stadium, a glancing header from last season’s top scorer for Rangers, Christian Nnaji, off a corner-kick by Eso Achibong on 65th minutes gave visiting Dakkada goalkeeper, Loveday Anugbuo no chance at all in what turned out to be the only goal of the encounter.
The win was such a huge relief for Rangers coach Abdul Maikaba, who admitted that his side were stretched to the limits to snatch the three points.
“It was a good and tough match considering the position of our opponents and our own set target for the season. The win was difficult but my players kept on pushing even when our opponents showed enough determination to stop most of our moves”, Maikaba said.
“I thank God that at the end of the match, we have our three points which means a lot for us as we continue to work towards achieving our set target”, he added.
Rangers were the quickest off the block after Referee Habibu Ghali signaled the start of hostilities, and would have been a goal up as early as the second minute but for the alertness of the visitor’s keeper who did well to beat out an Eso Achibong well-drilled free-kick from the edge of the box.
More missed opportunities were to follow by top-scorer, Ossy Martins as the visitors’ goalkeeper continued to pull saves to deny the Flying Antelopes, while he watched helplessly when Eso’s free kick on 42th minutes hit the crossbar and bounced off to safety.
The visitors, in one of their rare forays upfront towards the end of the first half, were presented with an opportunity at goal but that was thwarted by Rangers Ghanaian keeper, Nana Bonsu.
Approaching the 60th minute, Maikaba introduced the duo of Chidiebere Nwobodo and Christian Nnaji for Chukwuebuka Okorie and Elijah Ani, and the visitors were further pushed back. It was in one of the continued pressure that saw Nwobodo outwitting three opponents but his cross was blocked for a corner-kick. Eso would deliver a perfect cross from the resultant corner-kick that was nodded in by Nnaji.
Additional reports by Rivers United Media