With a third of the Nigeria Professional Football League gone, things are as tight as ever in the rankings of the teams on the log. Title contenders haven’t pulled away from the chasing pack and so too are the sides in relegation zone. Matchday 27 have now come and gone with one outstanding game left from the match round[Kano Pillars Vs Rivers United], but what where the things we learned from the NPFL on Sunday?
MFM blow title chase wide open
It was always going to be a huge weekend in store as it concerns teams at the top of the table. All top-5 sides were scheduled to play each other at the weekend bar MFM. And you just knew the Yahweh boys had to make their fixture against newly promoted ABS FC count, especially seeing it was a home match.
Goals from Austin Ogunye and Sikiru Olatunbosun ensured Wasiu Alalade’s goal for ABS was a mere consolation as MFM won 2-1. With the result especially in Maiduguri were leaders Plateau United lost going to plan. Victory against ABS saw MFM narrow the points gap to Plateau United to just two points.
Question marks still remain over MFM’s performances away from home as they have looked a shadow of themselves on their travels. But seeing Plateau United’s next 5 of 6 NPFL matches are against sides in the top half of the table, can MFM plug that dreadful away form and mount a challenge at the top?
Both team’s will meet each other on Matchday 34 in Jos, but could that tie be the title decider come August 13, 2017? MFM hold the key to that question if only they can stay in touch having closed the gap on the leaders to two points.
Maikaba keeping his Promise with Promise Keeper’s
Flashback to NPFL matchday two this season, a 1-1 draw between Akwa United and Rivers United had just been played. Anyone who was there in the Post-match press conference will tell you how toxic it was judging by the atmosphere created by the media. New coach of Akwa United, Abdul Maikaba was winless after only just two league games in charge of the side. Fans have already pressed the panic button.
Undaunted by questions from the media, Maikaba called for patience from the fans and the media citing its still early days. In fact, he stoutly defended his methods and said he wasn’t going to change his style for anyone while promising good results to follow soon.
Fast forward five months later, Akwa United who were win-less after five matchdays are currently sitting in third position, five points from the top and with an outstanding game. Also throw in impressive wins against Kano Pillars in Kano, 4-2 drubbing of MFM and recently the home win against Enyimba. It’s clear to see the League Blogger’s Manager of the Month for April, Maikaba is keeping to his promise.
Gombe United record creditable away point
Hands up anyone if you saw the Nasarawa United 1-1 Gombe United result on the cards? Congratulations if you actually predicted the Desert scorpions to get a point in Lafia, you are the master punter.
Though still stuck on 31 points and still in the relegation zone, Gombe United’s draw in Lafia might just be the boost they needed to get their flailing season back on track. All season long, they’ve ridden on home comforts but recently that hasn’t been the case. Dropped points at home against Enyimba and Rangers sandwiched in between that 1-5 humiliation by Plateau United had deepened their relegation worries. Three points against Abia Warriors on matchday 26 and a point in Lafia might set them up nicely when El-Kanemi visit the Pantami stadium next weekend.
Sunshine, Shooting Stars ease relegation fears
Sunshine Stars and Shooting Stars recorded home wins (if Sunshine’s adopted home of Ijebu-Ode can pass as one) against Abia Warriors and Wikki Tourists respectively which saw both sides close the gap on the teams above the relegation zone.
Abiodun Joseph scored in the 65th minute to hand Sunshine Stars a 1-0 win and move the Owena Waves level on points with Rivers United in 16th position albeit having played two games more. Like most teams in the NPFL, capitalizing on home support will be key to their survival.
Shooting Stars on the other hand, defeated Wikki Tourists 2-0 to ease relegation fears and put them within touching distance of the sides above them. Head coach of Shootings Stars lives to fight another day.