Plateau Utd flatten Rangers to claim first title

By George Akpayen

Plateau United have emerged the new Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions after defeating Rangers 2-0 at the Rwang Pam Stadium in Jos on Saturday.

The giant Emeka Umeh and Benjamin Turba got the goals that ensured the Jos club became the 19th club to win the top division in Nigeria.

It was a befitting occasion for the new champions as they faced off with outgoing champions Rangers but still had to make sure of a first title with MFM FC breathing down their necks in second place by just a point difference.

Umeh and Kabiru Umar caused the Flying Antelopes troubles and deservedly the former opened scoring from the latter’s assist on 25 minutes.

Ranger did make attempt to fight back and one of such occasion, Charles Henlong turned inside the box and fired a shot which went off target.

Moments later, Rangers left-back Ugwu Uwadiegwu was the one rescuing his team from going two goals down when he cleared Daniel Itodo’s shot on the goalline.

However two minutes before time Plateau United put the game to bed when Turba got only his second goal of the season.

Plateau United finished the season with 66 points, four more than MFM who suffered a 1-2 defeat at El-Kanemi Warriors. Babangida Ibrahim and Yahuza Bala scored for El-Kanemi and Stanley Okorom’s goal was sandwiched in between.

Seven-time champions Enyimba finished third spot after a 1-0 success over Katsina United. Stephen Chukwude scored off a Stanley Dimgba’s assist.

Akwa United ended up in fourth place and missed out on a place in the CAF Confederation Cup despite a 3-0 bashing of Kano Pillars. Musa Newman, Christian Pyagbara and Michael Ibeh scored the goals.

Rivers United shipped in four goals at Abia Warriors after going a goal up through Guy Keumian. Ndifreke Effiong scored twice, Stanley Nwuju and Moses Onduemeke completed the rout.

Seun Sogbeso scored twice, both from the spot as Nasarawa United defeated ABS FC 2-1. Samuel Oyedeji’s goal from the spot proved insufficient for ABS who got relegated.

Shooting Stars failed to avoid defeat on the final day of the NPFL. The Oluyole Warriors suffered a two-nil loss at Niger Tornadoes. Ibrahim Babawo and Odeyemi did the damage on 3SC.

Anthony Okpotu finished the season as NPFL top scorer. He scored for Lobi Stars in their 1-1 draw at FC Ifeanyiubah and then got sent off for an elbow offence. Samuel Ayorinde equalized for FC Ifeanyiubah.

Sunshine Stars secured their place in the division with a 1-0 win after a second half goal from Sikiru Alimi while the Gombe United versus Wikki game was abandoned after the latter took the lead through a Chigozie Maurice own goal.

Source: LMC

Matchday 35 preview: Battle for title, continent & survival continues

By George Akpayen

The final run-in to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) will continue to shape up as clubs make last minute bid to win the title, qualify for one of three places for CAF club competitions or keep their places in the elite division.

Last matchday, title contenders MFM FC failed to make the most of the opportunity when they faced table-toppers Plateau United in a first-meet-second game at the Rwang Pam Stadium in Jos. Plateau United fired themselves to a slim 1-0 win courtesy of Ibeh Johnson’s first half goal under soggy conditions.

Enyimba, El-Kanemi Warriors, Nasarawa United and Akwa United brightened their chances of finishing in the top-three while Remo Stars are all but relegated suffered their a fifth home defeat this season.

Title race
It was looking like a two-team race between Plateau United and MFM at some point until last weekend when the latter lost to the former and then Akwa United and Enyimba threw their hats in the ring too though both clubs are currently eight points each off the pace.

Plateau United will resume their chase for a first title this Sunday when they play at ABS FC. This game is a banana peel for the Jos club like their next three matches against Rivers United, Wikki Tourists and Rangers, all with relegation worries. Boboye’s team go into this game with a five-game unbeaten streak but have not won on the road since a 2-1 win at Sunshine Stars in June.

Out of the top-four sides MFM are only team playing at home when they play hosts to relegation-threatened Gombe United. MFM have not lost in their last 21 home matches, and their coach Fidelis Ilechukwu still feels his side are in the title race.

“The title race is not over yet,” he told npfl.ng. “Yes we lost against Plateau United but we now need to win our next game and also win on the road and that way the title race could be open.”

Akwa United and Enyimba play at FC Ifeanyiubah and Rivers United respectively in tricky games. The trip to Nnewi for Akwa United comes at a time their opponents are aiming for a top-three finish to return to continental football while Rivers United are in dire need of the full points to ease their relegation worries.

Continental places
Plateau United, according to pundits, sure look like they have claimed one of the three continental places available through the league but Boboye knows they have to thread softly and keep their expectations at a premium with four matchdays to go.

“No I don’t think so. It is not done and dusted yet. We still have four games and that’s how we will keep battling till the end of the season,” said Boboye.

The race for the top-three, or continental positions, could go down to the wire as MFM FC, Akwa United, Enyimba, El-Kanemi Warriors, Nasarawa United and FC Ifeanyiubah are still in the running. Interestingly. El-Kanemi and Nasarawa United will be involved with delicate games at Lobi Stars and Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC).

Survival battle
Newcomers Remo Stars are now technically confirmed to have dropped to the second tier, the Nigeria National League (NNL) after last Sunday’s home loss to Rivers United. The interesting part of the survival race is that all the teams below 50 points now stand the risk of being sucked into the deep end of the table should they drop points this Sunday.

The survival race starts from Kano Pillars in eighth position with 48 points, five more than the bottom-four. However the clubs in real danger of going down are last season’s champions Rangers, Katsina United, Rivers United, Sunshine Stars, Wikki Tourists, Shooting Stars, ABS and Gombe United.

The title-holders could ease their fear of dropping out of the premier division for the first time in their history if they see off Katsina United at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu. Wikki will go up against Remo Stars at home while Shooting Stars and Sunshine Stars also play at home against Nasarawa United and Niger Tornadoes.

Missing in action this weekend
Twenty of the top stars in the NPFL will again be missing this matchday as they are involved in international duty with the Super Eagles for the 2018 CHAN qualifier against Benin Republic. Important among the absentees this Sunday are MFM duo of Stephen Odey and Sikiru Olatunbosun as well as Akwa United’s Alhassan Ibrahim, Rabiu Ali of Kano Pillars, El-Kanemi’s Samuel Mathias, Thomas Zenke of Nasarawa United and Osas Okoro of Rangers.

On the suspension front. Rivers United will be without goalkeeper Rotimi Sunday for the game against Enyimba due to accumulated yellow cards. MFM’s Tchato Giscard, FC Ifeanyiubah’s Godwin Obaje, Plateau United’s Jimmy Ambrose are also suspended for this matchday.

Source: NPFL.NG

Title race not done & dusted yet – Boboye

Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye has played down talks that his team already have this season’s Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title in the bag after defeating second-placed MFM FC 1-0 in a top-of-the-table clash last Sunday.

Boboye feels it will be foolhardy to begin celebrating when there are still four rounds of matches to conclude this season.

The former Abia Warriors and Sunshine Stars coach made it clear that his team will keep battling till the end of the season.

“No I don’t think so. It is not done and dusted yet. We still have four games and that’s how we will keep battling till the end of the season,” said Boboye.

He also took time to attribute Plateau United’s impressive outing this season to hardwork and commitment.

Boboye added that their good start to the season which saw them go unbeaten in their opening seven games have helped shape them into genuine champions in waiting.

“It has just been hardwork and commitment. That is just the truth. We started well and we knew we need to be up and doing every week,” Boboye responded when asked what have been the factors behind their success story this term.

Plateau United currently top the NPFL standings with 62 points, three clear of MFM in second place. They play on the road at ABS FC this season.

Source: NPFL.NG

Rivers United’s Ogbugh tops in VAT Wonder Goal 12

Rivers United striker Emeka Ogbugh has become the first player to win the VAT Wonder Goal award twice over two seasons after he emerged with the highest votes for the Matchday 31 shortlisted goals.

Ogbugh’s goal against Wikki Tourists in added time of the fixture polled a total of 2,843 votes to beat Abayomi Adebayo of Shooting Stars to second place. It was a close race between the two but FC Ifeanyiubah’s Isaac Loute earned the highest vote from the voters on Twitter with 112 of the 311 votes. Ogbugh polled 106 while Abayomi polled 71 leaving the rest 22 votes for Destiny Ashadi of Katsina United.

In the website voting where a total of 5,419 fans voted, Ogbugh polled 2,737 ahead of Abayomi who picked 2,336 votes to bring his combined total to 2,407.

Ogbugh, while playing for Heartland FC of Owerri last season had won the Wonder Goal award but switched to Rivers United after the Owerri side were relegated. Guy Keumian Venance opened scoring for the hosts after 10 minutes and in added time of the first half of the match against Wikki Tourists, Ogbugh received a lob from the right flank at the edge of the box, controlled with his chest and fired a shot that sailed in for the second of their 3-0 win.

He became the 12th player this season to win the award which attracts a cash prize of N150,000 half of which will be donated to a charity he will nominate from within the state. He also joins teammate, Ayo Saka who won the award on Matchday 20. It also made Rivers United the second club to have two players winning the award this season after Remo Stars that has had Ochowechi Salefu and Victor Chidume.

The VAT Wonder Goal award is a community investment initiative of the League Management Company (LMC) to promote club and community engagement. It is supported by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) which seeks to promote tax education on the platform of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

Votes are cast by fans for shortlisted players on the NPFL website, www.npfl.ng and the twitter handle, @LMCNPFL.

Source: NPFL.NG

Eguma, Ovoke confident Rivers Utd on path of redemption

By Blessing Fowowe

Rivers United coach Stanley Eguma and attacking winger Bernard Ovoke now hold the belief that their team can go on a run of good results to beat the drop in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) after dispatching Remo Stars 3-1 on Sunday.

Eguma added that he has always expected his group of players to perform at the optimum which they did against Remo Stars in Sunday’s game.

The Rivers United coach has turned his focus to the game against Enyimba this weekend and hopes that his team can take maximum points from their remaining home matches to ease their relegation worries.

“We are constantly trying to bring out the best in our players. It was a good game (against Remo Stars) for us, and this is what we have been expecting of our players. We need nothing than the best from them to redeem our image.

“In recent times, we have had problems at home, but now we must go back home to work hard and ensure we get the best results we should be getting at home, starting with the game against Enyimba,” Eguma said.

Ovoke, who was named man-of-the-match against Remo Stars, explained that Rivers United were never in doubt that they will, at some point, pick full points on the road this season.

He believes Rivers United have enough quality to win anywhere. He took time to talk about his form by playing down on his performance against Remo Stars that he is still not at his best yet.

“We have the players, the strategy and the belief. We knew we were going to pick maximum points (against Remo Stars).

“I cannot say I am back to my best yet. I have to take each game as it comes. The technical crew has been doing their best to help me get back to form,” Ovoke said.

The goal at Remo Stars was Ovoke’s third in the league this season as Rivers United now sit in 14th place with 45 points ahead of their home game against former champions Enyimba.

Source: NPFL.NG

Abia Warriors striker Adetunji undergoes surgery on fractured arm

Abia Warriors striker, Sunday Adetunji has undergone a successful surgery on his fractured left arm at the Federal medical Centre, Umuahia.

The former Shooting Stars forward had fractured his forearm after he scored his second goal in Abia Warriors’ 4-2 away victory over Lobi Stars in Makurdi.

He was initially rushed to the emergency unit of the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi where he received treatment before he was transferred to Umuahia.

At the federal Medical Centre, Umuahia a team of doctors operated on the forearm and successfully joined both ends of the broken bones.

The club doctor Dr Enyinnaya Anozie confirmed the success of the surgery.

“It was an open reduction internal fixation surgery to join both ends of the broken bones and hold them in place and I’m very happy it was very successful,” Dr Anozie, who was part of the team of doctors that carried out the surgery told the club’s media.

Dr Anozie revealed that the player is in stable condition and could even return to action earlier than expected.

Adetunji has scored 14 goals and provided two assists this term.

Source: NPFL.NG

Plateau Utd vs MFM FC: Ten things we learnt

By Clement Nwankpa Jr

Ibeh Johnson’s third minute goal was all Plateau United needed to beat MFM in a top-of-the-table clash at Rwang Pam Stadium, Jos. There were ten take-aways from the game which sees Plateau United extend their lead to six points.

(1) WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, TOUGH GETS GOING
Yes, this is a popular saying. Now, Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye has put together some tough guys out there. The playing conditions at the Rwang Pam Stadium on Sunday evening provided banana peels on Plateau’s way. The heavy rainfall meant it became a battle for the fittest. The ball’s movement on the rough surface was largely impeded so there was no room for finesse. The best players on the evening were those able to raise the ball expertly up and send it as far as possible, what is called ‘police football’ or ‘kick-and-follow’ in local parlance. MFM could not match Boboye’s ‘bulldozers’ in such situations. And no NPFL team can fare better either. So the boys could even muscle through odds provided by natural forces. Boboye has adapted his tactics to suit such terrible situations.

(2) NOT ONUWA’S DAY
MFM’s little magician Chukwuka Onuwa surprisingly started the game from the bench but keen followers were not shocked he never made it to the pitch. Fidelis Ilechukwu opted to start with players who could be up to the hosts’ physical challenges but playing conditions even got tougher with the rain. It wasn’t a day for the craftsmen. It wasn’t a day for Onuwa’s sleeky runs, footworks, crisp turns and cut-through passes. On what surface was he going to do all that? Who would even let him settle on the ball? Ilechukwu was right to leave him out of this one.

(3) PLATEAU UNITED HAS A HAND ON THE TROPHY
MFM were well aware of the implications of losing this game. And that is what we are faced with now. Plateau United have opened a six-point lead with four matches left. It will take a collapse of monumental proportion to stop them from winning a first ever Nigerian top flight title.

(4) SUCCESS’ MANY BROTHERS
It was a sold-out arena. There was even an overflow. Notably, Plateau United jerseys were in hot demand at the match venue. The hawkers of the jerseys couldn’t even meet the demands. Before kickoff, there was no jersey left while prospective buyers increased. Success has many friends. Even those monitoring the result of Manchester United demolishing West Ham at the same time, were screaming ‘Up United! Up United’…Hahahaha… Whether they referred to Manchester United or Plateau United, United na United…All join…And there was a big government presence, a hitherto unfamiliar sight during Plateau’s matches. The team’s performances have endeared them more to the locals. You could mistakenly think you are in Kano with the ‘Sai Masu Gida’ faithful.

(5) BOBOYE IS A HERO
When you are loved by the people, you have no reason to hide inside a car. You could walk any distance you wish. Boboye was driven out of the venue on a tricycle (keke). When the fans spotted him, they ran after the tricycle shouting ‘coachee! coachee!’ He waved back at them savouring the moment’s delight. He is doing a Leicester with this team. He is on the verge of recording an unprecedented accomplishment in the Tin City and the fans idolise him for this.

(6) ZIKIYE DOES AN ITODO
This was a game the ball spent most of the time up than down. Expectedly, Plateau’s left-back, Daniel Itodo’s throw-ins caused all sorts of havoc in MFM’S box. Not to be outdone, MFM’s left back Jonathan Zikiye ensured all throws won in the hosts’ half were heaved into the box with ferocity whether on the right or left flank. It was a bid to give Plateau some dose of their own medicine but the hosts dealt with Zikiye’s throws more easily than MFM contended with Itodo’s. It wasn’t difficult to see who, between the two was the ‘apprentice.’

(7) SOME SPARKS FROM OGBONNA
It has been established that this was more a game of brawn than finesse. But there were a few moments of brilliance largely provided by Plateau’s forward Anayo Ogbonna. From the third minute when he teed up Ibeh Johnson for the match winner to the 48th minute when his bicycle kick off Itodo’s throw hit the woodwork, his directness provided the incision that helped the league leaders see out this one.

(8) OGUNYE AND ODEY’S SHOES
In the absence of Stephen Odey, Austine Ogunye got the nod to lead MFM’s attack. He got a glorious opportunity in the 57th minute to make Odey’s absence less felt, but blew it. The workaholic Waheed Adebayo had done all the difficult work, found his way to the corner line and laid the ball for Ogunye. All Ogunye needed was to tap in with keeper John Gaadi displaced but his effort was off target. That was the miss of the game and could have proved more vital than most of Odey’s 18 all season.

(9) OBAJE’S BULLETS
Godwin Obaje’s elder brother, Joshua Obaje had seen it all and done it all in the domestic scene. He was part of the Heartland squad that lost in the CAF Champions League final in 2009. He came in for Peter Eneji in the 52nd minute and well aware of the difficulties the players had stringing passes together, he opted to hit the ball with venom from anywhere he got the prompting. In the 60th minute, his 20-yard effort rattled the palms of substitute keeper, Nasamu Emmanuel and four minutes later, he hit it from 25 yards but this time, it was inches wide.

(10) NOW, MFM COULD LOSE IT ALL
MFM have been second for the larger part of the season but failure to get something in Jos with results in Calabar and Uyo not going their way, there is the real danger of Akwa United and Enyimba, who both trail MFM by two points with superior goals difference, nicking the Champions League and Confederation Cup tickets on the last day. The Olukoya Boys still have their destiny in their hands but can’t afford any more slip-up.

Source: NPFL.NG

Rabiu Ali beats Tchato to 7th VAT Wonder Goal Award

Veteran Kano Pillars midefielder, Rabiu Ali has clinched the Match Day 26 VAT Wonder Goal, beaten off competition from Tchato Giscard of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) FC. Abia Warriors’ Yakub Hammed finished a distant third in the online polling conducted on the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) website and twitter handle.

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‘Sit up and face the challenges ahead’ Babangida

Kano Pillars FC team has been charged to sit up and face the challenges ahead with all seriousness.

The Chairman of the club Tukur Babangida gave the charge at a meeting with players of the club at Sani Abacha Stadium after their training session today.

Tukur Babangida said the Kano State Government, the Management, and the entire fans of the club are not happy with current performance of the club so far.

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