Lobi Stars will be at the Lafia Township Stadium in Nasarawa State to play a home match with Rangers realising that victory by any margin will lift them to No. 2. It will see the Makurdi-based side topple their visitors as MatchDay 6 of this season’s Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) reached conclusion.
Victory on the other hand for Rangers will land the Flying Antelopes on top of the table, which Remo Stars assumed on Wednesday after bashing Shooting Stars 3-0 at the Remo Stars Stadium in Ikenne-Remo. Even with a game at hand, the Sky Blue Stars are two points ahead of Rangers.
In the South West derby at the Remo Stars Stadium, Ikenne, Shooting Stars failed to translate their dominance into success, as the homers utilise the chances they created to pick the maximum points.
After a keenly contested opening minutes, the Ibadan side settled down and looked the more dangerous side with the trio of skipper Malomo Taofeek, Kareem Ayinde Ademola and Ayobami Junior terrorising the Junior Nduka-led defence of the Sky Blue Stars.
When Shooting Stars’ forward, spearheaded by Oke Kayode, failed to utilise the chances created, including from set pieces, the homers shockingly shot into the lead in the 20th minute through Ahmed Akinyele, who benefited from the failure of the visitors’ backline to clear Sadiq Ismail’s corner kick, to nod home the opener.
Former Shooting Stars striker, Sikiru Alimi scored from the spot in the 40th minute to give the coach Daniel Ogunmodede-tutored side a 2-0 lead at the break.
On resumption, Shooting Stars turned the heat on the hosts, after coach Gbenga Ogunbote introduced the duo of Douglass Archiv and Gideon Monday.
Despite having the most of the possession, the Oluyole Warriors were undone by poor marksmanship and they paid dearly for this again in the 63rd minute when Remo Stars launched a counter attack, which Alimi finished up, to kill off the contest.
Ogunbote blamed careless defending and poor finishing for the defeat of his side. “I think we had some careless moments, the boys didn’t play badly, but we were unable to defend well enough to at least secure a point”, he analysed.
Looking ahead of MatchDay 7 at home on Sunday against Niger Tornadoes, Ogunbote expressed the readiness of the team to get it right. “We will go back and prepare for the game. As you can see, the challenge we had today, was the final touch. We’ve been working on it and we will continue to work on it until perfection is achieved”, stated the former Rangers, Lobi Stars and Sunshine Stars’ handler.
Kano Pillars landed in fourth place after their overwhelming victory at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano over Bayelsa United. Goals came from Sani Mubarak (30th minute), Rabiu Ali (56th minute) and Abba Adam (90th minute).
The result keeps Bayelsa United in the drop zone, at No 17.
Gombe United stepped down one spot after a lone goal setback at Eket Sports Stadium with Akwa United’s Kufre Ebong’s 35th minute strike the only one in the encounter.
It was the Promise Keepers’ first win of the season, moving out of the danger zone on the log.
Akwa earned only three points from their opening five games and were desperately in need of victory to boost their morale. Head coach Fatai Osho named a strong starting XI.
Despite dominating the game throughout, the solitary goal Ebong, off Anthony Anioke’s cross that beat Gombe United’s goalkeeper Itodo Akor, was all the home side had to show for their efforts.
Uche Collins, Edidiong Ezekiel, David Philip, Seyi Oguntayo, Rilwan Sadiq, Said Mubarak and Sunday Williams all saw their efforts saved by Akor, or go off the target.
Osho said that he was excited and relieved that his boys finally got it right. He assured that the team would build on the success.
The result lifted Akwa United from the bottom of the table out of the relegation zone to No. 16.
Plateau United have Christopher Nwanze to thank for their win over Katsina United. His 13th goal settled the matter at Jos International Stadium. From 13th, Plateau gained seven steps to occupy No. 6., while Katsina United lost ground – from eighth to 11th.
Sunshine Stars had to fight from behind to overcome visiting Abia Warriors in Akure. In the 15th minute, Adejoh Ojonugwa struck for the Warriors, only for Ekerette Udom to cancel that 20 minutes later, while Michael Olulasi’s goal from the spot in the third minute of added time earned the Owena Waves all the points.
Sunshine Stars are now 14th on the log, from 17th; while Abia Warriors are on fifth from seventh.
Like Sunshine, Kwara United also had an early scare as Sporting Lagos took their exciting football to Ilorin.
At the Kwara State Stadium Complex, a first minute goal by highly mobile and ambitious Jonathan Alukwu unsettled the hosts.
Alukwu, who was a torn on the flesh of Kwara United’s defence, benefitted from a penetrative pass from the left, and was free enough to swing the ball to the right of keeper Adewale Adeyinka, to silence the spectators.
United found it difficult breaking the defence of the visitors, but were forceful enough to earn a 45+ minute penalty that was converted by defender Isaiah Ejeh, who was later named as Man-of-the-Match.
In a desperate bid to win the match, especially following the lack of positive result in two consecutive matches against Rangers and Bayelsa United, Coach Kabir Dogo made early change in the second half, introducing Issa Gata in place of Paul Samson.
With the visitors growing gradually in confidence as the minutes role bye, Dogo introduced Sadeeq Yusuf for Samuel Ayanrinde. He also brought in Ifeanyi Odinnega and Godwin Oshagbemi for Emmanuel Ogbole and Ikenna Offor respectively. Bernard Ovoke also replaced Alao Mohammed deep into the game.
The incessant pressure on Sporting Lagos paid off in the 86th minute, when Ifeanyi Odiannega got to the end of quick exchange of passes by Kwara United to slot home at close range, and return Kwara United to winning ways.
At the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, Heartland and former champions Rivers United cancelled out themselves. Farouk Mohammed’s first goal of the season in the 37th minute earned the visitors a deserved point, after Onyekachi Okafor gave Heartland the advantage in the 19th minute.
Farouk finished from a well taken free kick.
Heartland have endured a difficult start to the season on their return to the NPFL with no win in five games. The Naze Millionaires have drawn all two home games and lost two on the road, while plucking a draw at Akure against Sunshine Stars.
Acknowledging that the fans were there for the team, captain, Nnaemeka Anyanwu tendered apology for their uninspiring performance so far.
“We are sorry about our not-too-good start to the season. We are ready to make amends and that will start with our game against Rivers United”, pleaded Anyanwu who has had stints at former champions, Enyimba and Abia Warriors.
He said the players will benefit from the solid backing of the fans at this difficult time to turn their fortunes.
“It is this time that we need our fans and supporters behind us. We will continue to work hard to get over our difficulties and challenges. We can do it if we do away with some of the errors we have made during games and are also more forceful in attack”, Anyanwu pledged.
He noted that their situation calls for understanding and patience from the fans, urging them to come out in numbers to the stadium.
“Our fans need to be patient with us. We shall get it right. Let them come to Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri to cheer us to victory. It is what we need at this point”, he told the club media.
Thursday’s fixture: Lobi Stars v Rangers (4 pm)
Wednesday’s results: Sunshine Stars 2-1 Abia Warriors, Heartland 1-1 Rivers United, Kano Pillars 3-0 Bayelsa United, Kwara United 2-1 Sporting Lagos, Niger Tornadoes 0-0 Enyimba, Remo Stars 3-0 Shooting Stars, Akwa United 1-0 Gombe United, Plateau United 1-0 Katsina United
Rescheduled: Doma United v Bendel Insurance (8th November)
Additional reports: Shooting Stars SC, Akwa United FC, Kwara United FC, Heartland FC