Ali's double over Rivers Utd puts Pillars within continental spot

By Uchenna Iyoke

Rabiu Ali's second half brace ensured Kano Pillars continued their impressive run of form at home with a 2-0 victory over Rivers United in a rescheduled Matchday 27 of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) decided at the Sani Abacha Stadium on Thursday.

The Kano Pillars captain made the difference as the 'Sai Masu Gida' claimed their 14th win of the league season and stretched their winning run at home to seven in their last seven matches.


Ali opened scoring from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute after Amos Gyang was upended in the box by Semiu Liadi. Six minutes later the midfielder jabbed in a cross from Hamza Abba Tiya to clinch vital points for his side.

The match played with Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr and his assistants among the crowd in the stands, afforded the Kano Pillars pair of Rabiu Ali and Jamiu Alimi as well as Emeka Atuloma, all part of the CHAN Eagles to impress the national selectors.

It was Rabiu Ali who put up a show, scoring two goals in the space of six minutes and subsequently named man of the match.

Kano Pillars coach Ibrahim Musa made do with his young players as Alassan Ibrahim was handed a start ahead of Sikiru Kamal, who was on break for his wedding ceremony that comes up this weekend.

While Nazifi Yahaya took the place of suspended Junior Lokosa. There was no place for defenders Chris Madaki and Idris Aloma, who were not listed in the matchday squad, their position was confidently manned by young Fahad Usman.

On the other hand, Rivers United coach preferred Femi Thomas in goalkeeper ahead of the experienced Rotimi Sunday with Malian striker Abdoulaye Kanoute getting in the startlist.

The match started in frenetic pace with Pillars launching the early attacks through Nyima Nwagua, whose header off Bala Zakka's delivery in the seventh minute went inches away from target. Nwagua's second attempt was a shot from the edge of the box, but Rivers United goalkeeper Femi Thomas was untroubled.

Rivers United then showed serious signs of their attacking might via skilful combination of Emeka Atuloma, Emeka Ogbugh and Esosa Igbinoba. The Rivers United trio had bites at the cherry but Pillars goalkeeper Yusuf Mohammed stood firm. Igbinoba almost broke the deadlock on 15 minutes, but no thanks to Pillars crowded defence that thwarted his solo effort.

Zoumana Doumbia was the busiest man from the Rivers United side as he took time to smash most of the set piece awarded to his team. Though his kicks were timely punched away by Yusuf Mohammed.

Another foreign player in the books of Rivers United, Abdoulaye Kanoute threatened the Pillars rear guard with his powerful shot from the edge five minutes to the break and forced Yusuf to make a superb save.

Nwagua, cutting a lone figure at times up front for Pillars, fought earnestly, but it was Jamiu Alimi's free header that almost drew the first blood, his celebration was cut short when Christian Weli stopped his effort on the goalline, bringing the first stanza to a barren end.

Pillars youngsters Fahad, Nazifi and Alassan then turned on the style in the second half, controlling things, leaving Eguma's men pinned in their half for longer spells in the second 45 minutes before Rabiu Ali netted twice to kill the game as a contest.

The Pride of Rivers remain one point above relegation waters with 41 points from 32 games ahead of their trip to Katsina United on Monday for the next matchday.

Kano Pillars moved up one place on the league table to ninth position, having amassed 47 points from a possible 96. Their next point of call is a home cracker with leaders Plateau United at the Sani Abacha Stadium on Sunday.

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