Nigerian League Headlines of Game Day 1

By Zazi Bariza

After about three months of recess, a brand new season of the Nigerian Professional Football League kicked off over the weekend.

The return of the league was well greeted by many Nigerians, judging with the social media response to it, at least.

For the real die-hards of Nigerian football, no sooner had the first game between Plateau United and Niger Tornadoes kicked than they took to social media to broadcast and rebroadcast virtually every bit of action that went down inside the RwanG Pam Stadium.

As the first day (Saturday) and its only game passed by, Sunday rolled on with nine cracking games. Again, the media was placed under extreme pressure by fans that were eager to share text and pictorial updates from different matches.

At the end of the match day, several talking points had risen, with the following leading the lines as the most talked about.


The Away Wins

It is not every week that you see up to four teams claim victories on the road, irrespective of the league.

That explains why when it happened on match day one in the NPFL where away victories mean a lot, it naturally became the major sporting headline across the country.

FC Ifeanyi Uba, Wikki Tourists, Lobi Stars and new boys MFM all won away from home and will cart home with N500,000.00 each from the League Management Company.

Akwa United, Abia Warriors and Warri Wolves also picked points away from home.


The Surprise Result

Mountain of Fire and Miracles FC, MFM, playing their first game ever in the Nigerian top flight secured a historic away win at in form Nasarawa United, who were on a 61 match home unbeaten run, dating back to May 2009.

The new boys had a blistering start with two first half goals from Newman Musa and Chukwuka Emmanuel.

Ifeanyi Nweke pulled one back for the hosts with quarter of an hour left on the clock, but that was not enough to do MFM’s rare away win any blemish.

The First Goal

It took only sixteen minutes of action for the new season of the NPFL to register its first goal. Plateau United’s Charles Okafor fired home a header from a corner kick to earn credit for being the player with the season’s opening goal.

No trophy is won for being the first to score in a season, but Charles Okafor has certainly become a name to be remembered!


The Defending Champions

Defending champions, Enyimba travelled the short distance to Port Harcourt knowing that they had not lost to Dolphins there since 2011; but they eventually did not play against Dolphins. Did they?

Newly instituted Rivers United put the obvious behind them to secure all three points against the People’s Elephants in their first game as a football club.

Frederick Obomate’s well taken free kick in the second half capped a poor run of form for coach Paul Aiyigbogun and his charges who have now lost their last two in all competitions.  


The Barren Game

The only game that failed to produce a goal on the season’s opening day was the dwell at the Dan Anyam stadium between Heartland FC and visiting Warri Wolves.

Wolves could only muster 14 players for the game “following their inability to procure licenses in time for the season opener”; and in addition to the departure of coach Sam Okpodu just in the past week, the only team that will sulk at this result are Heartland.

Having seen such interesting talking points in match day one, our appetites are now wet for what week two has to offer.


Match day 2 previews

After an opening day that produced 17 goals and the away teams defying the bookmakers to win more games (four out of the 10 games compared to three home wins) and score more goals than the home teams. Surely that serves off a tantalizing second match day.

New boys, MFM FC, who stunned Nasarawa United in their first-ever game of the top division with a 2-1 win at the Aper Aku Stadium, will host Rivers United. The Lagos-based club will hope they start off their home game at the Agege Stadium on a winning note though Rivers United will find a boost in their 1-0 opening day win at home to defending champions, Enyimba.

Lobi Stars and Sunshine Stars will go toe to toe at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi. This will be the 19th meeting in the premier league era between the two sides with Sunshine Stars winning eight to Lobi's seven and the other games ending in draws. Interestingly, the last two meetings between the two clubs have ended in score draws of 1-1. Unlike last season when they failed to win in their opening nine fixtures, Lobi have started well with that 1-0 win on the first day of the season at Shooting Stars under new coach Godwin Uwua. Sunshine Stars, on the other hand, failed to make their numerical advantage count against Federation Cup holders, Akwa United, who played with 10 men for longer spells of the game in Akure.

El-Kanemi could find themselves in trouble so early in the season if they fail to leave Abia Warriors with a good result after their opening day loss to Wikki Tourists at home. Abia Warriors still have Super Eagles pair of Chisom Chikatara and Austin Obaroakpo alongside Under-23 national team player, Ndifreke Effiong, who netted a stunning goal at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos to take a point off debutants, Ikorodu United.

Last term, Abdu Maikaba watched in agony from the dugout as Wikki Tourists missed out on a continental spot, but they have began this season on a promising note thanks to their 1-0 win at El-Kanemi from Godwin Obaje's goal. They host Heartland this Wednesday. Heartland are one of the home sides that failed to win last match day drawing 0-0 with Warri Wolves in Owerri to the disappointment of their fans.

Kano Pillars appear to have found themselves a new hero in Super Eagles winger, Prince Aggreh, who scored an injury time winner to put Rangers to the sword at the Sani Abacha Stadium on Sunday after a nervy start to that game. Mohammed Baba Ganaru and his Pillars will have their title credentials for this season under scrutiny from CAF Champions League campaigners, Warri Wolves.

In Enugu, Rangers who succumbed to Pillars at the death of their opening game, will welcome one of the promoted sides, Plateau United, to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. The Flying Antelopes, without a title in more than three decades, will have to tidy up their act in the final third after their schoolboy attitude in front of goal at Kano Pillars on Sunday. Certainly Imama Amapakabo will want a better finishing ratio to chances created from the likes of Osas Okoro, Togaba Konlan, Godwin Aguda and Chiamaka Madu, who scored their goal against Pillars when Plateau United come calling.

It will be a first NPFL meeting between Niger Tornadoes and Giwa FC at the magnificently-looking Confluence Stadium, Lokoja overlooked by the hills in Adonkolo that gives a sight to behold. Hopefully both clubs will find that sight inspiring after losing their opening day matches.

Three games involving Akwa United, Enyimba and Nasarawa United have been called off due to their engagement in CAF club competitions. This allows the likes of FC Ifeanyiubah, Shooting Stars and Ikorodu United to recharge their batteries and further plan ahead of their next games in the coming match day.


Match Day 2 Preview culled from www.npfl.ng


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