Rivers United are champions of the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League! And it is for the first time in their history!!
Interestingly, Rivers United’s triumph was sealed in the home of the outgoing champions, Akwa United. By beating Plateau United 2-1 in the Matchday 35 encounter on Saturday, the Promise Keepers handed over the title to the Pride of Rivers who still have four matches to wrap up the season.
The result meant that Plateau United could no longer catch up with Rivers United even if they win the rest of their three fixtures in the season. There is a gulf of 10 points that the Port Harcourt side had established ahead of Matchday 35.
David Onovo shot Akwa ahead in the 12th minute, a situation that gladdened the hearts of Rivers’ fans. But Jesse Akila cancelled that advantage in the 52nd minute.
It was looking like Rivers United would have to fight for themselves in their away match to Nasarawa United on Sunday when Leo Ezekiel converted fellow substitute Naibe Akpesiri’s pass in the first minute of added time.
Rivers United first first snatched the top spot from promoted side Remo Stars on Matchday 8 when they beat Heartland 3-1 in Port Harcourt while the Ikenne-Remo team played goalless with Rangers in Enugu. Remo Stars reclaimed the No 1 spot three weeks later. But since Matchday 14, no other team had assumed leadership of the league.
Plateau United put up a prolonged challenge from Matchday 14, but that was what it was till the end – a challenge.
Rivers United were founded in 2016 from the fusion of Sharks and Dolphins FC, both owned by Rivers State Government; the latter winning the domestic league thrice – 1997, 2004 and 2011.
In the other game of the day, Niger Tornadoes walloped visiting Kwara United 4-0 in Kaduna to ease their relegation pressure. The Minna side started the goal harvest quite early with Issa Gata’s own goal just two minutes on.
Jonas Emmanuel (19th minute), Musa Wakili (49th) and Shamsudeen Hashim (53rd) dealt more blows on Kwara United, whose chase of continental football qualification is now in doubt.
Tornadoes not only escaped from the danger area, but also moved four steps up it.
Sunday’s matches: Nasarawa United v Rivers United, Katsina United v Remo Stars, Gombe United v Wikki Tourists, Kano Pillars v Rangers, Sunshine Stars v MFM, Shooting Stars v Abia Warriors, Lobi Stars v Dakkada FC, Enyimba v Heartland (all 4pm)
Saturday’s results: Akwa United 2-1 Plateau United, Niger Tornadoes 4-0 Kwara United