Lobi Stars remain top of the Nigeria Professional Football League table following a slim 1-0 victory over Kano Pillars in a match day 18 top three tussle at the Aper Aku Stadium Makurdi.
Ayo Saka headed home from a cross nine minutes from time to ensure Lobi keep their cushion on top of the table with the mid-season, one game away.
Last season’s highest goal scorer, Anthony Okpotu and experienced midfielder, Ayo Saka returned to the match day squad for Lobi, even as coach Ibrahim Musa of Kano Pillars also rang some changes by handing debuts to new central defender Kalu Orji and Ikenna Hilary.
There was nothing to separate both sides at the break, although Lobi Stars mounted some pressure but Samad Kadiri; offside, Anthony Okpotu’s wide volley and Ayo Saka’s parried shot were all they could muster.
The home fans were also treated to some exquisite play by the away team and they couldn’t help but cheer as the tandem of midfield maestro Rabiu Ali, Nzube Anaezemba and Auwalu Ali strung passes that left Lobi Stars players chasing.
Pillars had a fair share of chances to stun the hosts in the second half but Nyima Nwagua narrowly missed, Anaezemba fired a volley wide.
Chris Madaki was sent off for Kano Pillars in the 80th minute for a second bookable offense and a minute later, Lobi Stars found the breakthrough courtesy of thin tall Ayo Saka who headed home Ebube Duru’s cross to claim maximum points for Lobi Stars.
Kano Pillars with a game in hand have dropped to sixth on the table having 25 points after 17 matches.
They will host Heartland of Owerri in their next and last game of the first stanza on match day 19 while Lobi Stars will travel to face Sunshine Stars in Akure.