Enyimba achieve the double over rivals Rangers as top striker Victor Mbaoma struck twice for the visitors in between Ossy Martins’ equaliser.
The result opens the door for Remo Stars who travel to Okigwe to face Heartland on Tuesday. Victory against the bottom placed side will enable the Sky Blue Stars usurp Rangers’ position at No 3.
Rangers drew the first blood in Aba when Martins rounded up Enyimba goalkeeper Bassa Djeri in the 14th minute and scored following a through pass from Chidebere Okorie.
Enyimba restored parity in the 32nd minute when Adekunle Adeleke found Mbaoma in a good position and the forward calmly shot past Seidu Mutawakilu in goal for Rangers
Mbaoma got his brace and Enyimba’s turnaround was complete in the 66th minute when he leapt highest to head in a cross from substitute Cyril Olisema.
The win marked the first time in over 20 years that Enyimba will record a league double over the Flying Antelopes after the People’s Elephant won 1-0 in the reverse fixture in Nnewi.
Mbaoma whose brace now takes him to eight league goals this term expressed his delight to www.npfl.ng after the game.
‘We actually wanted the victory and we are very happy we got it. So I’m very very pleased, especially coming from behind to do it.
‘It was very difficult when they scored but we just stood up and said this won’t happen again so we had to fight and we’re very happy that we actually won,’ he said.
Sunshine Stars also move up the ladder as their triumph at the Dipo Dina Stadium, Ijebu-Ode (their temporary home) over Abia Warriors lifted them a step up to sixth place, while Enyimba are at No 7.
Ejike Uzoechi’s 21st minute penalty after Innocent Gabriel brought down Ikenna Cooper in the box settled the matter for Akure Gunners.
The Warriors responded well in the second half and bossed the game but couldn’t get on level terms.
They had the numerical advantage to even the score when Sunshine’s midfielder Chinedu Ozor was sent off for a second booking. Keeper Mustapha Lawal’s well-arranged defence line could however not be breached.
After losing his first game as Sunshine Stars coach, Emmanuel Deutsch has now earned his first win.
Deutsch, a Cameroonian, was hired to replace Deji Ayeni who joined Akwa United. His team didn’t spare his former employers, Abia Warriors.
Deutcsh told www.npfl.ng after the game that his former team tricked him with their setup and blame fatigue for his side’s unimpressive performance.
‘They (Abia Warriors) deceived me with their plans. They started most of the boys that worked with me on the bench and played Anthony Okemiri who was fast and difficult to stop in the midfield.
‘It was a difficult game for us, my players were fatigued. Traveling from Kaduna to play today was not easy for us, we did well in the first half but the second half was tough. We will continue to work with the team’, Deutcsh said.
For his Abia Warriors’ counterpart, Imam Amapakabo, it was a good game, despite his side’s defeat.
‘We played well but in the final third we were not calm to get the goals. It wasn’t a bad game for us. I tell my players all the time that numbers can only count when you were able to keep possession and get behind the lines. Unfortunately, we tried to exploit the numerical advantage, but the players that came on didn’t do well in the final third’, said Amapakabo to www.npfl.ng.
At the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna, Chinedu Ufere could have given “home” side Niger Tornadoes the lead earlier but had his spot-kick saved by Wikki keeper, Ibrahim Galadima.
Musa Wakili pulled the chestnut out of the fire for the Minna lads with a late goal in the 87th minute to guarantee the Ikon Allah Boys maximum points.
That outcome catapulted Tornadoes from just a step up the relegation zone to third from that red corner.
In Lagos, MFM continue to their push for surviving the drop with a convincing 2-0 home win over fellow strugglers Dakkada FC.
The win, the second in a trot at home, has fired up hopes of beating the drop in MFM camp.
The Olukoya Boys began the game with real intensity and had two goals chalked off for offside by the referee, both coming from new boy, Micah Ojodomo.
Badejo Oluwaseun will later turn in Chukwudi Ekeocha’s delivery from a corner with just a minute left to end the first half.
Ojodomo then missed a good opportunity to double the lead for the host before the whistle went for halftime.
MFM begun the second half with high intensity and their effort paid off in the 65th minute, Oladayo Alabi converted a free-kick at the edge of the visitors’ box which was deflected into the back of the net.
Dakkada stepped up their game but fell short of ideas to find the cutting edge until the end.
It was a perfect response for MFM who lost 0-1 to Remo Stars in the midweek fixture, while Dakkada could not build on their previous 2-0 victory at home to Kwara United.
MFM stepped up from 19th to 18th temporarily.
It ended goalless between Lobi Stars and Kano Pillars in Makurdi as Coach Baba Ganaru’s side couldn’t find a way through against his former employers.
It was also a game shy of talking moments as Pillars proved impossible to break down.
Matchday 22 continues on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Monday, Gombe United will play host to Nasarawa United at the Pantanmi Stadium. Fidelis Ilechukwu and his title-chasing Plateau United squad will be guests to Kwara United in Ilorin while Akwa United entertain struggling Shooting Stars in Uyo.
Heartland’s encounter against Remo Stars is fixed for Tuesday at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri.
The last fixture for the Matchday 22 will take place at the Muhammad Dikko Stadium in Katsina when league leaders Rivers United visit Katsina United.
Results: Sunshine Stars 1-0 Abia Warriors, Enyimba 2-1 Rangers, Niger Tornadoes 1-0 Wikki Tourists, Lobi Stars 0-0 Kano Pillars, MFM 2-0 Dakkada FC
Extensive reports by Andrew Randa and Wale Mustapha (courtesy LMC Media)