- Published on Wednesday, 20 December 2017 18:02
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By Adepoju Tobi Samuel
It was an incredibly exciting Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Invitational Tournament in Kano State as the pre-season tournament rounded off on Sunday night.
The tournament started with few goals in the first two matchdays but teams in the competition stepped up their performance in subsequent matches and goals rained at the Sani Abacha Stadium in the latter stages of the competition.
The final match witnessed a five-goal thriller as the CHAN Super Eagles emerged champions after outscoring MFM FC of Lagos 3-2. The two classification matches also produced three goals.
Following the conclusion of the pre-season tournament ahead of the new NPFL season, we look back at top five players who made their mark in the competition.
Adekunle Adegboyega (MFM FC)
MFM FC came into the tournament with all their new players ineligible to play due to paper works while Victor Mbaoma was also invited to the national team. MFM manager Fidelis Ilechukwu was left with Adegboyega as the only option in the centre forward, with Stephen Odey's move to Europe creating a big vacuum in the attack. Adegboyega stepped up into the role and made a huge impact in the championship. He scored a goal each for the Olukoya Boys against Akwa United and Kano Pillars.
Adegboyega was a surprise star in his team, as he proved to the manager he is capable of taking up the team's ‘number 9’ responsibilities in the new season with his excellent performance in the pre-season tournament.
Tony Okpotu (Super Eagles)
The Lobi Stars forward came to party on the final day with a brace. The NPFL top scorer showed class in the most important game for the Super Eagles. He struggled in the first game and he was rested in the second game.
The Panther, as Okpotu is nickname, was instrumental in the final and ensured MFM FC succumbed to a 3-2 defeat. He broke the deadlock in the game with a delightful finish late in the first half. He completed his brace in the second half and capped the day with excellent touches and ball movement. Super Eagles coach, Salisu Yusuf would be excited to see the league's top scorer regain his scoring form ahead of the 2018 CHAN in Morocco. Okpotu's performance has heat up the competition among strikers in camp.
Nzube Anaezemba (Kano Pillars)
The newly signed midfielder from Rivers United has settled quickly in Kano with his new teammates. Anaezemba had a terrible football year last season with Rivers United after an impressive time at Enyimba International in more than four seasons.
Kano Pillars could not progress to the final but things look positive for Anaezemba ahead of the new season. He was able to replicate what the NPFL fans know him for - box-to-box football and width in attacking position.
Tosin Omoyele (Plateau United)
Omoyele made his debut in top flight football after his transfer from NNL side Osun United to NPFL champions Plateau United. He is one of the first signings of Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye. Omoyele who scored 15 goals in the NNL last season started his top flight journey with impressive performance on Matchday 1 of the pre-season competition against Enyimbe International.
He scored a late equalizer from the spot and saved the league champions from defeat on the opening day. Omoyele is a promising talent and his showed a glimpse of what is to come with his superb performance in the tournament which got him standing ovation from the fans. Super Eagles coach Yusuf has also confirmed Omoyele invitation to camp of the CHAN team in Abuja. He is young and quick, and can run down the channels. He also looks like a quality addition to the league champions squad.
Orji Kalu (Super Eagles)
Orji Kalu came off the bench to replace injured defender Olamilekan 'Adeleye' Aniyikaye on Matchday 1 against Plateau United. He would later become the only player in the Super Eagles to have featured in all matches in the pre-season tournament.
He was rock solid at the back for the Super Eagles and his experience was vital for the team. He paired with Stephen Eze and Timothy Danladi on different occasions during the tournament and his level of understanding with the duo was superb. Orji played a huge and influential part in defence, and he will be one of the most important player for the team in Morocco if he can sustain his current defensive form.