Plateau United increased their lead at the top of the Nigeria Professional Football League after Matchday 24 round of fixtures on Sunday as all 20 clubs paid tribute to the memory of Nasarawa United defender Martins Chineme who died on the pitch a week ago.
Players and officials of all 20 NPFL donned black armbands and observed a minute silence before kickoff as the LMC made a show of inspecting all ambulances and medical personnel at match venues.
Play was also halted in the 20th-minute for another round of applause for the departed defender who donned the number 20 jersey for Nasarawa.
Plateau moved four points clear with victory over a dogged Nasarawa United at the New Jos Stadium after closest rivals Rivers United and Lobi Stars all suffered losses away from home.
Abdu Maikaba’s side were bailed out by Mustapha Ibrahim’s late winner after Chinedum Ohanachom cancelled out Amos Gyang’s penalty opener for the hosts who now have 46 points from 24 games.
Enugu Rangers bounded up to 5th with a slim 1-0 victory over 2nd-placed Rivers United courtesy of Chinonso Eziekwe’s 39th-minute winner.
Rangers who have a game in hand have enjoyed a remarkable change in circumstances having been in the relegation zone a few weeks ago.
Heartland FC put an end to a three-game winless spell with a 2-0 win over Gbenga Ogunbote’s Lobi Stars at the Okigwe Township Stadium.
Pascal Eze and Chukwuemeka Obioma scored either side of halftime for the 11th placed Naze Millionaires as 3rd-placed Lobi’s title challenge appears to be fizzling out with the Makurdi-based side now having won once in their last four games.
Auwalu Ali hit a brace – with one of them a penalty – as Kano Pillars moved up to 4th with a 2-0 victory over 19th-placed Jigawa Golden Stars at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano.
Goals from Samuel Kalu and Uche Onuoha put 10th-placed FC Ifeanyiubah two goals up inside 25 minutes as the Nnewi-based side threatened to run over Dakkada FC.
The visitors tamed the tide however but Eso Archibong 71st minute penalty proved to be a consolatory effort for 6th-placed Dakkada.
Champions Enyimba made easy work of Sunshine United as Martins Usule, Stanley Dimgba and Dare Olatunji all scored as the Peoples Elephant rebounded from last week’s CAF Confederation Cup exit with a resounding win in Aba.
In Ilorin, Chinedu Ufere’s winner for 18th-place Kwara United boosted their survival hopes as they closed the gap on 17th-placed Wikki Tourists. Both sides are on 28 points but Wikki have a superior goals difference.
Suleiman Ibrahim’s 84th-minute leveller cancelled out Ndifreke Effiong’s 8th-minute opener as 12th-placed Katsina United rescued a point against 7th-placed Akwa United at the Mohammed Dikko Stadium.
Fatai Abdullahi converted Abia Warriors’ first successful spot-kick of the season deep inside injury time to give them a 2-1 win over bottom side Adamawa United in Umuahia.
John-Paul Chinedu gave the table proppers a shock lead on the stroke of half time but Yakub Hammed equalised for the hosts a minute after the restart.
A lengthy delay following an injury to Warriors’ goalkeeper Victor Philemon meant there were 10 minutes of added time and after Paul Samson was ruled to have been upended inside the box, Abdullahi held his nerve to convert in the 95th-minute.
Warri Wolves scored twice in as many minutes to break the resolve of 16th-placed MFM who are now only above the relegation places on goals difference.
MFM who lost Bala Akintunde a red card held on gamely and thought a point was in the offing as the game neared full time but Michael Okoyoh 89th minute goal was quickly followed by a Charles Atshimene strike a minute later to condemn the Lagos side to a heartbreaking defeat.
NPFL MATCHDAY 24 RESULTS
Plateau United 2-1 Nasarawa United
Amos Gyang 27’ (PEN), Ibrahim Mustapha 82’ – Chinedu Ohanachom 40’
Kano Pillars 2-0 Jigawa Golden Stars
Auwalu Ali 29’ (PEN), 62’
FC Ifeanyiubah 2-1 Dakkada
Samuel Kalu 2’, Uche Onuoha 25’ – Eso Archibong 71’ (PEN)
Kwara United 1-0 Wikki Tourists
Chinedu Ufere 82’
Enyimba 3-0 Sunshine Stars
Martins Usule 12’, Stanley Dimgba 59’, Dare Olatunji 90+2’
Katsina Utd 1-1 Akwa United
Suleiman Ibrahim 84’ – Ndifreke Effiong 8’
Rangers 1-0 Rivers United
Chinonso Eziekwe 39’
Heartland 2-0 Lobi
Pascal Eze 42’, Chukwuemeka Obioma 69’
Warri Wolves 2-0 MFM
Michael Okoyoh 89’, Charles Atshimene 90’
Abia Warriors 2-1 Adamawa United
Yakub Hammed 46’, Fatai Abdullahi 90+5’ (PEN) – John-Paul Chinedu 45