Enyimba bagged bragging rights in the Oriental Derby with a comprehensive 3-1 home victory over Enugu Rangers who suffered a third straight loss and saw their lead on top Group A reduced to three points while Akwa United for whom Mfon Udoh scored his ninth league goal of the season claimed sole ownership of top spot in Group B on Match Day 17 in the 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on Sunday.
Rangers had seemed poised to finish the season with just a solitary loss after embarking on an imperious thirteen-game unbeaten streak which saw them surge to the top of Group A. However, following back-to-back losses in rescheduled matches, they traveled to rivals Enyimba – themselves on a ten-match unbeaten run – for the much-anticipated Oriental Derby looking to stem their alarming slide.
Any thoughts Rangers haboured of arresting their run of losses quickly evaporated when Enyimba went two goals up in the first eighteen minutes through high-scoring defender Ifeanyi Anaemena and Jean-Marie Guera’s deflected effort. Godwin Aguda halved the deficit for the visitors with a beautifully struck volley four minutes into the second half but Anaemena popped up with his second goal in the sixtieth minute to put the game firmly beyond Rangers.
Second-placed Enyimba move up to 28 points, three behind Rangers with five games left to play. Having not lost in their previous thirteen games, Rangers have now lost their last three by a combined score of eight goals to two.
Franklin Sasere and Anthony Omaka scored in the first half as Sunshine Stars followed up their impressive draw away at Rivers United on Match Day 16 with a 2-1 win against Wikki Tourists in Akure. Tourists for whom Abbar Umar scored the lone goal now find themselves in relegation trouble after dropping to ninth in Group A.
Third-placed MFM FC secured a first victory in seven matches after Chijioke Akuneto’s smartly struck spot kick earned them a 1-0 win over Rivers United at the Agege Stadium in Lagos while Kwara United – without a win in four games – were held to a goalless draw by ten-man Lobi Stars who had Bashiru Monsuru sent off in Ilorin. It was United’s second straight goalless draw, their bluntness in front of goal emphasized by the fact that they have managed just one goal in their past four games and now find themselves in 10th place, two points from safety. Fourth-placed Lobi have now drawn their last four matches although three of those have come away from home.
Katsina United outscored basement side Remo Stars 3-2 at the Mohammed Dikko Stadium to consign the visitors to a fourth loss in seven matches. Questions had been asked about the whereabouts of Kennedy Boboye, the beleaguered manager of Remo Stars after it emerged that he had missed days of training and didn’t travel with the side to Katsina.
In his absence, however, the team put up a spirited fight but ultimately fell just short at the end. A brace from Tasiu Lawal and a strike from Chinedu Ajanah put the home side 3-1 up in the first half and although Gbolahan Mustapha gave the visitors a lifeline in the 80th minute, United held on to claim all three points. United are fifth on the log while Remo in last place on fourteen points are eight points from safety and look all but condemned to an early return to the second division.
Earlier on Saturday, eight-placed Bendel Insurance recorded their seventh goalless draw and tenth draw overall when they played out to yet another 0-0 score line against Niger Tornadoes at the UNIBEN Sports Complex in Benin. Tornadoes sit in eleventh place on the Group A log.
Akwa United claimed sole ownership of top spot in Group B with a 2-1 victory over Nasarawa United at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo after El Kanemi Warriors with whom they’d shared top spot dropped points earlier on Saturday.
Nasarawa United had started brightly and looked on course for an upset when Adeshina Thomas opened the scoring for them after fourteen minutes but The Promise Keepers restored parity through league top scorer Mfon Udoh who scored his ninth of the season from the spot. Etboy Akpan struck what ultimately proved to be the winner for the home in first-half additional time.
FC Ifeanyiubah moved up to second in Group B with a 2-1 victory over Delta Force in Nnewi. Uche Ihuarulam’s 8th-minute spot-kick put the home side ahead but Force were level on 22 minutes courtesy of Emmanuel Nnamdi’s strike. Chidi Madu, however, struck the winner for the home side in the 78th minute to leave Force in 8th place, two points from the relegation places having scored just a solitary win in their past five matches.
Abdulazeez Yusuf scored the only goal for ninth-placed Gombe United at the Pantami Stadium to condemn Abia Warriors to a fifth 1-0 loss in six games. Gombe have now won three and drawn one of their past five matches having failed to win any of their five previous matches. Warriors meanwhile are mired in relegation waters, five points from safety in 11th place and manager Emmanuel Deutsch has it all to do to ensure their top-flight status.
Abdu Maikaba’s Plateau United project looks precariously close to disintegration as they suffered a third loss in their past five matches after falling to an Alhassan Ibrahim strike in a 1-0 defeat to fourth-placed Kano Pillars at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano. Plateau United’s squad assembled at great cost and to much fanfare are four points from safety in 10th place and are in serious danger of dropping out of the top-flight two years after winning the title.
Bottom side Yobe Desert Stars suffered an 11th reversal of the season after Okon Otop and an own goal from Moses Yanmar condemned them to a 2-0 defeat to Heartland at the Okigwe Township.
Earlier on Saturday, Go Round FC became just the second team to take points from El Kanemi Warriors in Maiduguri after they battled to a 2-2 draw – a state of affairs that led to a disgraceful display of home fans aggression leaving the visiting team fearful for their lives at the final whistle.
Sunday Anthony and Jamiu Alimi scored for the home side with Chiebonam Nwogbaga and Stanley Worlu getting on the scoresheet for the visitors. Following the end of the match, home fans had to be dispersed by armed security personnel who shot into the air as the visiting contingent huddled in fear on the field.
2018/2019 NPFL MATCH DAY 17 RESULTS
BENDEL INSURANCE 0-0 NIGER TORNADOES
SUNSHINE STARS 2-1 WIKKI TOURISTS
(Franklin Sasere 14’, Anthony Omaka 28’ – Abbar Umar 45’)
ENYIMBA 3-1 ENUGU RANGERS
(Ifeanyi Anaemena 15’ 60’, Jean-Marie Guera 18’ – Godwin Aguda 49’)
KATSINA UNITED 3-2 REMO STARS
(Tasiu Lawal 9’ (Pen) 32’, Chinedu Ajanah 12’ – Victor Chidume 25’, Gbolahan Mustapha 80’)
MFM 1-0 RIVERS UNITED
(Chijioke Akuneto 5’ (Pen))
KWARA UNITED 0-0 LOBI STARS
EL KANEMI WARRIORS 3-2 GO ROUND FC
(Sunday Anthony 18’, Jamiu Alimi 47’ – Chiebonam Nwogbaga 29’, Stanley Worlu 55’)
AKWA UNITED 2-1 NASARAWA UNITED
(Mfon Udoh 40’ (Pen), Etboy Akpan 45+2’ – Adeshina Thomas 14’)
FC IFEANYIUBAH 2-1 DELTA FORCE
(Uche Ihuarulam 8’ (pen), Chidi Madu 78’ – Emmanuel Nnamdi 22’)
HEARTLAND FC 2-0 YOBE DESERT STARS
(Okon Otop 56’, Moses Yanmar 90’ (OG))
GOMBE UNITED 1-0 ABIA WARRIORS
(Abdulazeez Yusuf 73’’)
KANO PILLARS 1-0 PLATEAU UNITED
(Alhassan Ibrahim 20’’)