Matchday 33 of the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) brought new realities this weekend for several teams in the elite division
Rivers United were in their elements at home as they defeated Abia Warriors 2-1.
A Chijioke Akuneto winner was enough for the league leaders to open a ten-point lead over Plateau United who are currently in second place.
Akuneto had helped Rivers crawl back in contention after Abia Warriors took a surprise lead earlier in the game.
The attacker’s first penalty kick was saved by the Abia goalkeeper but the referee adjudged the goalkeeper to have crossed the line. He retook his spot-kick and converted to register his 15th league goal of the season. Akuneto came up clutch in the 77th minute to score his 16th of the season and rise above Victor Mbaoma whose hattrick had helped him climb the scorers’ chart, albeit temporarily.
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Enyimba had earlier defeated Kwara United 3-0 courtesy of Mbaoma’s treble. The attacker had missed two games during his international assignment with the Super Eagles.
Deji Ayeni’s Akwa United also defeated Remo Stars 1-0 at the Nest of Champions through a Naibe Akpesiri 66th-minute goal while Dakkada held Gombe United 2-2.
Barnabas Imenger and Ifeanyi Ogba scored for Lobi Stars against Heartland of Owerri. Heartland received two ref cards in the game and may face LMC sanctions.
At the Shehu Dikko Stadium in Katsina, Destiny Ashadi and Dauda Madaki helped Katsina United overcome relegation candidates and bottom-rooted MFM.
A late penalty helped Shooting Stars overcome second-placed Plateau United. Malomo Taofeek had scored the opener in the 8th minute before Samuel Mathias drew the former league winners level. Moses Omodumueke scored the winner from the spot in the 89th minute.
Sunshine Stars defeated Niger Tornadoes as Nasarawa also defeated Rangers of Enugu while Kano Pillars and Wikki Tourists played a 1-1 draw.
Rivers inch closer to title, Enyimba dream of continental football
Rivers United need just two more wins from their remaining five games to emerge league champions while Enyimba, currently tied on 51 points as Rangers in 3rd position sit 4th on the log.
Both teams are one point above Remo Stars in 5th position as the league promises an interesting ending with battle for the third continental slot and relegation expected to go to the wire.