Tactical analyses of NPL match day 6

By Nduka Orjinmo

Coach Stanley Eguma of Dolphins must rate the Gombe attack so highly, but who wouldn’t, after the Gombe side drubbed Sharks 5-0 just four days before meeting his side in the NPL.

But Eguma showed why he is one of the best in the country and he responded tactically to the Gombe attacking prowess by switching to a 4-3-3 formation.

Gombe United may not win the Nigerian Premier League this season, but their striking pair of Sani Sanusi and Babagidi Mustafa will likely end up as the most potent strike force in the NPL history.

While Sanusi has notched up six goals this term, Babagidi has five.

After handing Sharks their heaviest defeat in a while in the NPl, Gombe came to Port Harcourt as league leaders against the defending champions Dolphins and started the match not looking any fatigued, as Sharks coach John Obuh will have us believe that the long trip to Gombe caused his side the embarrassment.

Gombe started well upfront with Babagidi and Sanusi causing the Dolphins defence all sorts of problems, moving them out of their positions severally with very fluid movement and understanding.

The change in tactics did also not help Dolphins as the players struggled to come to terms with positional play- not that they eventually got a hang of it- but it helped to destabilise the Gombe structure.

Playing a 4-4-2 formation would have afforded Gombe the luxury of passing the ball out from defence, but with their defenders marked three to four and pressed quickly and finding themselves 2 against three in the middle, they lost possession in key areas when they tried to bring the ball out from defence and it was only a matter of time before their defenders started hitting the balls high.

The Dolphins defence dealt with the aerial challenge comfortably and gradually pressed the Gombe front line deep into their own half.

At one point, Sanusi Sani was on the left side of his defence, helping out.

The trick for Gombe would have been to stretch Dolphins with their superiority on the flanks, and with Kennedy Chinwo playing for the champions, it might have paid off.

But you have to have the ball before you can initiate any attack in football, and they saw little of it on the evening.

Plenty of credit must go to the Dolphins quartet of Olawale Isiaka, Ifeanyi Egwim, Chidi Osuchukwu and Seidu Abuu.

They dominated play in the middle, combined well and each knew what was expected of him in the 4-3-3 structure.

Egwin did particularly well, drifting out to the flanks at will, getting close to the lone striker to form a diamond and holding up the ball effectively when it was played to him.

Though it cannot be said that both Dolphins goals were a direct result of their shape on the day-the first being a header by Adamu Muhammad and the second a goal mouth scramble by Seidu Abu-two things are clear from the encounter.

Coach Stanley Eguma is not scared to respond tactically when the challenge presents itself, but his players need to be on the same wavelength with him to see it through.

The other game in Port Harcourt took place on Saturday between Sharks and Akwa United in a match that was supposed to be played behind closed doors at the Sharks stadium.

Of course, it was anything but that as the steadily swelling presence of fans in the stadium despite the gates being locked, provided more thrilling spectacle to watch than the football played by both sides.

Of course, it ended in a barren draw.

Another game that ended in a barren draw was the Oceans boys clash at home to Warri Wolves.

Warri wolves have now picked up the most draws in the league and are still to lose a match. Coach Paul Aigobon of the Wolves is one we should keep an eye on. He sets out his side to hit sides on the break when he plays away from home, and Ocean Boys will consider themselves lucky to have taken a point from the game.

Of all the sides I have watched this season in the NPL, Warri remain the most tactically disciplined and I tip them to get a continental ticket.

Ike ThankGod though needs to lose some of his meaty mass and Jude Aneke needs to move better off the ball.

Rangers also played out a barren draw with Rising Stars FC.

The Rangers side is the most entertaining team I have watched so far.

They pass the ball very well, are a youthful side and add plenty of flair to their game. Perhaps a point is not good enough against a newly promoted side.

Also played behind closed doors -though for a different reason- was the match in Kano, where hosts Kano Pillars beat visiting Kwara United 2-0 with goals from Manir Ubale and Gambo Mohammed in the second half.

The surprise result has to be Enyimba going down in Kaduna to Kaduna United.

Nasiru Hussein got the goal in the 24th minute.

There are few sides in the NPL that are capable of picking points away from home, and Enyimba is one of them.

But when your best players leave you, it becomes difficult to achieve the consistency needed to get such difficult results in and Enyimba at the moment are not doing that. They lost by a lone goal to Kaduna United.

Jigawa Golden Stars recorded their second victory of the season after they defeated last season’s runners-up Sunshine by a goal scored by Noble Anasoh in the 57th minute.

Jigawa will need to keep getting all three points at home if they want to survive at the end of the season.

They remain the youngest side I have seen this season, but youth alone of course, doesn’t guarantee success.

Lobi Stars playing at home away in Abuja beat Heartland 1-0 with Lazarus Chukwu getting on the score sheet.

Abubakar Bukola Saraki FC defeated 3SC by 2-0 in Ilorin with goals from Balogun Andrew in the 34th minute and Sala Abiodun in the 39th minute.
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