MatchDay 36 Roundup: Remo Stars, Kwara United pull away for Continental Spot
By Damiete Sanipe
MatchDay 36 of the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) were concluded on Saturday and Sunday with four teams jostling for just one continental spot and about seven teams battling for survival in the relegation zone as all still had mathematical chance to retain their NPFL status. Four teams are destined to go down.
Remo Stars with a point advantage, Rangers International, Enyimba and Kwara United were all in the running for that continental spot; while Remo and Enyimba squared up against each other. In other fixtures, Kwara United took on Nasarawa United and Rangers with the easiest on paper came up against struggling Shootings Stars.
Remo made it count when it mattered most as a solitary Sikiru Alimi goal was all it took to give them all three points to maintain pole position among the chasing pack pipping Enyimba 1-0.
At the Kwara Sports stadium, Kwara United who narrowly missed the continent last season, took their fate in their hands and started well against Nasarawa United as Jide Fatokun scored as early as the 13th minute to get things rolling. Samad Kadiri and Junior Lokosa added further goals in the second half in an impressive 3-0 score line but not good enough to put land them among the four.
Rangers playing a day earlier In Awka had themselves to blame as they threw away two second half goals to draw 2-2 against Shooting all thanks to a Moses Omoduemuke’s late brace. Shooting will savour the precious one point gained as it just might be enough to save their blushes.
Second placed Plateau United still pained by their first dropped points at home of the season last time out had to dig deep as they came from a goal down to beat hard fighting Lobi Stars 2-1. Zulkifilu Rabiu with a brace(one from the spot) after Duke Osimaga had given Lobi the lead in the first half. This result also confirm their second place finish and a ticket to the CAF Champions League next season.
In the bottom half, Abia Warriors put up a scintillating performance to overcome Gombe United 3-2 to bring respite in their relegation worries. Valentine Odoh helped himself to a brace taking his total tally to 14 goals with Paul Samson getting the third. Joint leading goal scorer, Yusuf Abdullazeez was among the scorers for Gombe as he got his 16th goal from the spot in a first half equalizer.
Niger Tornadoes proved to be the team of the week as they were resilient and resolute to get maximum points away to fellow relegation strugglers MFM.
Munir Idris got the opener for Tornadoes in the 22nd second minute and were sailing when substitute Chukwudi Ekeocha levelled things for the bottom side. Jonas Emmanuel then got the winner in added time for the Tornadoes that propelled them to 13th spot on the table and almost safe.
At the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, champions Rivers United left it very late as a 94th minute penalty gave them the opportunity to get maximum points. Duru Ebube took the responsibility with chasing top scorers Chijioke Akuneto and Ishaq Rafiu already substituted.
In other results, Dakkada at the Nest of Champions, Uyo beat Katsina United 2-0; Wikki Tourists also beat Akwa United with same 2-0 score line while Heartland despite winning Sunshine Stars 1-0 in a pulsating encounter in Owerri remain glued in the relegation zone.
Remo and Kwara on 56 and 55 points respectively are slowly pulling away for the last continental spot while Rangers and Enyimba will be licking their wounds and hoping for miracles in the next two match days.
Katsina, Heartland, Dakkada and already relegated MFM occupy the bottom have but have a chance with Kano Pillars and Shootings Stars just one point above the relegation zone.