NPFL 21: Amapakabo On The Brink As Abia Warriors Lose Again, Heartland Trumps Enyimba

Former Super Eagles assistant manager Imama Amapakabo could be the first managerial casualty of the 2020-21 Nigeria Professional Football League season after his Abia Warriors side’s disastrous start to the season continued with yet another loss, this time at home to Jigawa Golden Stars who snapped a two-game losing streak with the victory.

Employed to much fanfare, this wasn’t the start Amapakabo who won the title with Rangers in 2016 must have envisaged when he returned to league management after four years and he faces increased pressure with his team now having lost all four league games this season.

It continues a trend of disastrous results trailing the former El Kanemi Warriors boss whose stint as the country’s U23 national team and CHAN Eagles manager ended with both teams losing crucial qualifiers to miss out on qualification for the 2020 Olympics and the 2020 CHAN Tournament respectively.

Their start on Wednesday, however, belied the disaster that awaited at full time as Utibe Arit Archibong 7th minute header from Nzube Anaezemba’s free kick left them dreaming of a maiden win.

Fatai Abdullahi’s missed penalty on the hour mark after Anazemba had been fouled in the box was to prove fatal, as the visitors who had drawn level in the 24th minute through Olasukanmi Quadiri found great encouragement to deliver two killer blows afterwards.

Stone Samuel struck first in the 74th minute and added another nine minutes later to consign Warriors to another debilitating defeat and leave Amapakabo close to the brink.

Defeat ensures Abia Warriors replaced Heartland at the base of the standings while Jigawa Golden Stars move up to 8th in the table.

Meanwhile, Gbenga Ogunbote escaped heartbreak against former side Lobi Stars as Sadeeq Yusuf’s late equaliser rescued a point for Sunshine Stars in Akure.

Ogunbote returned for a second stint in Akure after guiding Lobi Stars to fourth place in the league last season, a move that essentially was a swap of managers as Kabiru Dogo also moved in the opposite direction.

It therefore was a case of both managers playing their former sides although Dogo will leave disappointed after his side conceded deep in added time to give up what seemed a certain win.

Fuad Ekelojuoti’s early opener for the hosts was cancelled by Mathias Samuel on the stroke of halftime and after Ossy Martins scored from Onuwa Chukwuka’s assist, Lobi thought a win was within reach but Yusuf popped up two minutes into added time to ensure both sides shared the spoils.

Elsewhere, Rangers made it three wins on the bounce and scored more than one goal for the first time this season to beat regional rivals FC Ifeanyiubah 2-1 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium.

Israel Abia put the Flying Antelopes ahead from the spot in the 12th minute after Patrick Egeonu’s foul on Christian Nnaji but Ekene Awazie curled in to equalise against the run of play in the 51st minute.

Parity lasted for only six minutes, however, as substitute Shedrack Asiegbu netted what proved to be the winner to lift Salisu Yusuf’s side to nine points and level with leaders Rivers United.

Leaders Rivers United suffered a first loss of the season as Chinedu Udeagha’s perfectly struck free kick ensured a narrow 1-0 win for home side Wikki Tourists in Bauchi.

Udeagha’s 30th minute winner, the first time the visitors have conceded this season, came just moments after the visitors struck the woodwork and the home side held on for all three points to move away from relegation trouble to 14th.

Christopher Nwanze was both hero and villain in Ilorin as he scored at both ends as Kwara United and Akwa United shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.

Nwanze gave Kwara United the lead from the spot just after the hour mark after Friday Ubong fouled Issa Gata in the box but he then took away his side’s advantage as he scored in the wrong goal seven minutes later to gift the visitors a point.

Warri Wolves ran riot against Katsina United, putting three goals past the visitors with Daniel Mark, Tega Ebetomame and Uche Ihuarulam on target as the home side move up to 9th.

Veteran midfielder Rabiu Ali scored a penalty twelve minutes from time as unbeaten Kano Pillars edged visiting Plateau United in Kaduna to move a point off the top of the table in 3rd place.

Adamawa United goalkeeper Victor Philemon was the hero as his penalty save from Reuben Nicodemus helped his winless side force a barren stalemate with fourth-placed Nasarawa United while Temim Adebayo’s 77th minute equaliser for MFM cancelled out Chigozie Solomon’s opener for Dakkada as both sides shared the spoils.

And finally, Heartland coach Fidelis Ilechukwu secured a first win of the season in his side’s biggest game of the season as they beat regional rivals Enyimba 2-0 in Owerri.

A beleaguered Ilechukwu faced an uncertain future before Wednesday’s Southeast Derby with numerous reports suggesting he was considering his position with the Naze Millionaires as the off field issues which blighted the team last year continued this term.

The negativity swirling around the team saw them lose all three of their opening games but mounting concerns of an implosion was dismissed in style as Heartland saw off the record league winners to reset their season and buy Ilechukwu breathing space.

Shedrack Oghali opened scoring in the 33rd minute and Emmanuel Adachie made sure of the points to help Heartland move off the foot of the table to 18th. Enyimba stay 10th with six points.

2020-21 NPFL MD 4 Results

Kano Pillars 1-0 Plateau United (Rabiu Ali 78’ (PEN))

Abia Warriors 1-3 Jigawa Golden Stars ( Utibe Arit Archibong 7’ – Olasukanmi Quadiri 24’, Stone Samuel 74’, 85’)

Rangers 2-1 FC Ifeanyiubah (Israel Abia 12’ (PEN), Shedrack Asiegbu 57’ – Ekene Awazie 51’)

Kwara Utd 1-1 Akwa United (Christopher Nwanze 61’ (PEN) – Christopher Nwanze 68’)

Dakkada 1-1 MFM (Chigozie Solomon 45+3’ – Temim Adebayo 77’)

Wikki Tourists 1-0 Rivers United (Chinedu Udeagha 30’)

Sunshine Stars 2-2 Lobi Stars (Fuad Ekelojuoti 9’, Sadeeq Yusuf 90+2’ – Samuel Mathias 45+1’, Ossy Martins 77’)

Heartland 2-0 Enyimba (Shedrack Oghali 33’, Emmanuel Adachie 53’)