By Sab Osuji:
Photo by Ganiyu Yusuf (MFM vs Plateau United):
Enugu Rangers reclaimed the top position in the Nigeria Professional Football League table on Sunday after playing out a 1-1 draw with Enyimba International in a match day 29 Oriental Derby at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
The Flying Antelopes’ return to the summit of the NPFL log was made much easier by Akwa United who showed no mercy in hammering erstwhile leaders Wikki Tourists 3-0 at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, otherwise called ‘Nest of Champions’.
Enyimba looked more destined for the maximum points in the early stages as they enjoyed much of the possession and rarely gave Rangers any time and space on the ball.
The title holders kept the Flying Antelopes backline busy with incessant raids which forced goalkeeper Isah Akor to make daring saves time and again.
The home team’s dominance paid off on the dot of 45 minutes of the first half when tricky passes freed Stephen Chukwude inside the area and the striker made effective use of the gesture presented by Rangers slack marking by releasing a low left-footed effort into the bottom corner.
However, the ovation that greeted the goal which had long been awaited had hardly died down when the Flying Antelopes replied in emphatic and dramatic fashion.
A teasing ball was mistimed by an Enyimba defender and that presented the visitors a glorious opportunity to piece a string of passes together before releasing Godwin Aguda with a simple tap-in on the edge of Enyimba six yard box.
Rangers thus regained the top position with 48 points as Wikki Tourists were pounded 3-0 by Akwa United.
Former Heartland forward, Hassan Babangida, opened his Promise Keepers’ account with a brace in the 11th and 30th minutes. Friday Ubong added the third on 68 minutes to leave Adbul Maikaba and his travelling Wikki Tourists ruing their worst defeat of the season and which could hang a big question mark on their first Premier League title credentials.
Warri Wolves' misery in the season continued at Lobi Starswhere Kingsley Eduwo, Patrick Ikeokwu and Raphael Ayagwa scored in the second period to give Godwin Koko Uwua and his charges a comfortable 3-0 win.
Plateau United took one giant step towards retaining their Premier League status with a 1-0 win at MFM. Kabiru Umar scored the match winner five minutes after the kick off. It was United’s second away win after a 1-0 win at Abia Warriors and it also turned out to be MFM’s second home defeat after earlier loss to Shooting Stars. MFM top scorer, Stephen Odey had a bad day with a 22 minute penalty miss that could have drawn his team level.
Shooting Stars of Ibadan kept their Premier League survival hopes alive with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Sunshine Stars.
The Oluyole Warriors came from a Meshack Chukwubuikem strike for the visitors to win courtesy of Sunday Adetunji’s brace all from the penalty spot on either half of the game watched by Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi.
#NPFL Match Day 29 Results
Shooting Stars 2-1 Sunshine Stars
Ifeanyiubah 2-1 Pillars
MFM 0-1 Plateau Utd
Lobi 3-0 Wolves
Akwa Utd 3-0 Wikki
Tornadoes 2-1 Abia Warriors
Enyimba 1-1 Rangers
Nasarawa Utd 3-0 El-Kanemi