Who is taking notice of Sharks?

By Nduka Orjinmo

Rangers 29 13 7 9 37 22 15 46
Kano Pillars 29 13 7 9 34 21 13 46
Enyimba 29 13 7 9 29 18 11 46
Dolphins FC 29 13 6 10 34 27 7 45
Sharks 28 14 3 11 36 34 2 45

Nothing is as worse as been average, it’s too obscure it easily drives you into the abyss, nothing remembered of you, nothing. Even when you make substantive progress, no one notices. It’s best to be positive or negative, good or bad. Even notoriety can be tolerated in place of the average, any reputation that announces you.

So who is taking notice of Sharks?

Silence! Silence!! Silence!!!

Guess no one is taking note, but arithmetically, Sharks are at the summit of the NPL, if you add the three points they will surely take from Ocean Boys whenever they play the game, famously so abandoned when unidentified men attacked Ocean Boys in their dressing room when they came to Port Harcourt for that match.

But of more importance than the pole position waiting for the Rivers state team, is how they have metamorphosed into a near excellent football playing side, when they play at home.

I have always passed the word around albeit in the presence of a round table and certain coloured bottles, that Sharks are the best football playing side in the NPL, closely followed by Enugu Rangers and perhaps Warri Wolves.

However, after watching Sharks cut Enyimba to shreds on Thursday, not by goals scored but the way they played-it is now safe to carry the message out of the dark halls and loud music and onto the streets, that Sharks are the best playing side in the country.

I rate Coach Imama Amapakabo (In pic above)very highly, and consider him the only tactician in the NPL.
Of the pile of coaches I have spoken to, he is the only one who can clearly tell you how is set out to play, why he made the changes he made, and even explain the structure of his opponents.

But even I, very hard to please, was dumbfounded by the play put on by Sharks against Enyimba.

Though I struggled early on to make out the structure of the Sharks side because of their mobility, I soon figured out with great astonishment, that Sharks were attempting a 3-4-3 formation.

In case you don’t know, the formation came to the fore last season with Napoli’s appearance in the Champions League.

It confused all and caught many of their opponents unprepared. The great Barcelona before their invincibility was shattered, imbibed the formation, polished it and took it to enviable heights.

Then Wigan Athletic in the English Premiership, at the point when their ship was rudderless on the relegation waters and bound for the precipice, employed the structure and that saw them beat some big teams and secure their EPL status.

Fortune Chukwudi’s flexibility and ability to play in Center back or right full-back, was utilized by Imama, who converted him into a wing back, with the Senegalese pair of Sane and Colly, the outright central defenders with Stowe on the left.

The team basically attacked as a three man defence with Chukwudi moving high up the pitch to join the midfield but shaped into a five man defence when they defended.

Terry Envoh slotted into the right back position, while Chukwudi came central as they formed an arc.

But it is in the middle where it was very confusing yet exciting. Teams that play the 3-4-3 formation normally deploy two holding midfielders and an attacking midfielder.

However, Hope Fiberesima paired Kola Anudi in the middle with Victor Ezeji ahead of them. Between Kola Anubi and Hope Fiberesima, the midle wasn’t split in two halves as sides mostly do, but while Fiberesima was static, Kola roamed free.
This for me, should be the classic trio of midfielders, whenever any side plays three in the middle, in whatever structure:

Hope Fiberesima was the tackler and marker, sitting just behind the line, and moving towards whatever zone needed some cover up when the team defended.

Kola Anubi was the tracker of loose opposing attackers, but primarily the passer of the ball.

He had his best game of the season for the club and also crept in at the far post on the 36th minute to score the only goal in the match. He truly appreciated his box-to-box role and was deathly fluid. Perhaps, leaving his pants on his waist for once paid dividends, I expect him to stop sagging.

Victor Ezeji was the creative force, and stayed quite close to the striker. An old head, lacking in pace and stamina, his final balls were perfect and his appreciation of space on the day, excellent. He did not move around so much, but always dragged the holding midfielder of Enyimba out of position, time and again.

The front three of Terry Envoh, Gomo Onduku and Bright Ejike were so mobile and seamless in their movement and change of position, it was so beautiful to watch.

Only the smartness of Markson Ojobo who marshalled the Enyimba defence and the profligacy of Ejike kept the scoreline respectable. Only perhaps the frontline of Enugu Rangers with Chikeluba Ofoedu and Ejike Uzoenyi boasts of anything half close to the fluidity of the Sharks frontline.

Enyimba’s problems were highlighted when left full back Nura was withdrawn in the first half. Consistently, Fortune Chukwudi who was playing as the wing back , Terry Envoh and Gomo Onduku all combined to create an overload on that wing. Nura couldn’t do much and easily fatigued as he tried to cope with the pace on that side.

The goal though wasn’t so beautiful, and wasn’t worked out from open play but was gotten from a set piece. A throw in flung in from the right managed to evade every one and fall on the feet of Kola Anubi who stole in at the near post to profit.

So is something new being evolved at Sharks. Will it bring a trophy in the end and lift them from their position of perpetual mid-table placing. The side is still without Juwon Oshinawan who is a left back that loves to go forward. It is only imaginable that they will pose more threat down that side, when he returns.

So can Sharks win the league? Confidence Idaa quickly said yes, adding that they are waiting to be crowned champions. But isn’t that his name and isn’t that why he is their media officer.


While Sharks were busy tearing Enyimba apart with possession football, Dolphins were tearing Kwara United with goals at the Liberation stadium.

4-1 it ended, but the story has to be the two goals scored by striker Ifeanyi Egwim (In pic, below), who managed to find his way into the starting line out of 9 other available strikers.

For once, his form was as fiery hot as his pink boots.

A defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Vincent Ogar and defender Kazeem Yekeen, allowed the striker who has received 3 red cards this season, to get in between them, pluck the ball with his head off the air-a move that also beat the defender- before firing into an empty net.

Of course, there was a collision between defender and goalkeeper that thankfully ended bloodless.

But the second was even more beautiful and did the NPL make use of video evidence asides when they are not making sure that closed door matches remain that way, then it should be in contention for goal of the season.

Time was 80 minutes, and Egwim was clearly struggling with an injury and on the sideline was Boris Konan stretching his tight groins to come in.

Egwim picked the ball just around the center circle, went past the first man with a change of pace, dropped his shoulder to leave the second man behind and with a step over, he dazzled the third out of the way.

He is known for showmanship, and the spectators and technical crew where already screaming options he had left and right to give the ball to, but his face glowed with anticipation, he could smell something special and in dug in for it.

He beat three more players of Kwara United before rounding the goalkeeper to score.
Legend has it that four of the five players and goalkeeper were still sprawled on the turf when the ball hit the back of the net.

So on the back of Sharks’ wonderful performance against Enyimba and Dolphins routing of Kwara United with Ifeanyi Egwim’s specials, we should be rubbing our hands in anticipation of the Port Harcourt derby this weekend right?

But alas am not, it’s going to be a waste of time. Sharks won the first leg on their ground by three goals to one, Dolphins will surely win this one, for peace to reign.

You can follow Nduka Orjinmo on twitter via @orjinmonduka
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