Kano Pillars players shook off the shock departure of technical adviser Emmanuel Lionel Soccoia to beat league leaders Kwara United in Kaduna on matchday 16 of the 2020-21 Nigeria Professional Football League on Wednesday.
The Sai Masu Gida were rocked by the sudden resignation of the Frenchman just hours before the visit of Kwara United with the former Black Leopards coach alleging undue interference in team selection and unpaid salary arrears as reasons for his departure.
If the players were taken aback by the decision, it barely registered on their performance at the Ahmadu Bello stadium as second-half goals from old warhorse Rabiu Ali from the spot and another in added time from Usman Babalolo gave the home side the win.
Pillars move up two places to third level on 27 points with Kwara United who drop one spot to second behind Enugu Rangers on goals difference.
Elsewhere, Emeka Atuloma and Maduforo Kingsley scored two first-half goals lift Heartland FC to tenth place with a 2-0 victory over 12th placed Wikki Tourists. Rivers United moved up to fifth with a 2-0 victory against MFM FC with Fortune Omoniwari and Nelson Esor on target for the Port Harcourt club.
The loss leaves MFM FC just two points off the relegation places and six points above bottom side Adamawa United whose resurgence continued apace after they rescued a point at home to in-form Abia Warriors.
The visitors who have now gone seven games without defeat took the lead through Chukwuemeka Obioma in the 53rd minute but Danjuma Jamilu struck back for the hosts in the 67th minute to ensure a share of the spoils.
Ndifreke Effiong Udo’s 17th-minute penalty was enough to give fourth-placed Akwa United all three points against second-from-bottom FC Ifeanyiubah in Uyo and Warri Wolves passed on the chance to move away from relegation trouble after they could only draw 0-0 at home to Jigawa Golden Stars.
The concluding fixtures for matchday 16 take place on Thursday with Rangers who can open a three point lead at the top away at Katsina United while Nasarawa United welcomes Dakkada FC and Plateau United host Sunshine Stars.