Home Sports Football NPFL: Ex-champions Heartland relegated as Nasarawa United, Beyond Limits, 2 others gain promotion

NPFL: Ex-champions Heartland relegated as Nasarawa United, Beyond Limits, 2 others gain promotion

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Remo Stars Academy, Beyond Limits; Ikorodu City, Nasarawa United and El-Kanemi Warriors have gained promotion from the Nigeria National League (NNL) to the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) ahead of next season.

The four teams confirmed their places on Wednesday after intense simultaneous final group games of the NNL Super 8 playoffs in Enugu.

Nasarawa were primed for an immediate return to the top flight after winning their first two group matches in the Northern Conference at the playoffs and finished the job in style with a 2-1 win over Sporting Supreme FC.

El-Kanemi Warriors also thrashed Sokoto United 4-1 to finish second in the group with six points behind Nasarawa United. Both clubs were relegated from the NPFL last season.

The Southern Conference, which had Beyond Limits, Madiba FC, Ikorodu City and Inter Lagos in that order, was open for any of the four teams to qualify before the kick-off of the last group games.

Top of the table with four points, Beyond Limits left nothing to chance against Inter Lagos, beating the team who needed the win most 1-0 to pick their NPFL ticket, where they will play alongside their sister club Remo Stars next season.

Ikorodu City also leapfrogged Madiba FC into second place thanks to a 2-0 win over their fellow Lagos side. Toyeeb Ajeigbe scored both goals for the Oga Boys in either half of the game.

Having finished top of the logs, Nasarawa United and Beyond Limits will slug it out in the final of the NNL Super 8 playoffs on Friday to determine the champions of the second tier league.

Meanwhile, former Nigerian champions Heartland FC of Owerri have been relegated to the NNL for the third time in their history after losing 4-1 against Remo Stars during an NPFL Matchday 36 game in Ikenne on Wednesday.

They returned to the second tier just one season after they were promoted back to the top flight.

Rooted 19th in the NPFL table with just 35 points before the game, Heartland needed a win against their title-chasing hosts to keep their hopes of surviving the drop alive, but Remo wasted no time in piling more misery on their visitors courtesy of a brace from Stanley Joseph plus other goals from Franck Mawuena and Jide Fatokun.

The Naze Millionaires struggled for the most part of the season, which saw them embroiled in a managerial crisis. Current Sunshine Stars coach Kennedy Boboye took charge of the team for six games in November 2023, before the Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, ordered the reinstatement of former coach Christian Obi.

They have only been able to win eight matches this season, playing 11 draws as well as 17 defeats.

Heartland were first relegated in 2016 while their second relegation was in the 2021/22 season.

Established in 1985 as Spartans FC before being renamed Iwuanyanwu Nationale from 1985 to 2006, the team won four straight NPFL titles from 1987 to 1990.

Heartland also reached the finals of the 1988 African Cup of Champions Clubs and the 2009 CAF Champions League.

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