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Nigerian Football

Sunshine Dries Up Rivers

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A fantastic long range strike from Ayo Saka proved decisive in Sunday’s Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest between Sunshine Stars and Rivers United in Akure.

The two sides went into the game which was decided at the Akure Township Stadium in poor form.

The Stars were winless in their last five games while United boasted of just a solitary win from their last four NPFL matches.

Clear cut chances were at a premium early on until 38th minute when Saka struck, profiting from a Sikiru Alimi pass after the visitors lost possession in careless fashion.

United improved after the break and were unlucky not to be back on level terms in the 52nd minute when Olorunleke Ojo reacted well to deny Nzube Anaezemba from point blank range.

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Ojo earned top marks again on the hour with a save right out of the top drawer to beat out Esosa Igbinoba’s free kick from 25 yards.

The visitors were unrelenting at this stage, stepping on the accelerator in a bid to rescue the game from the throes of defeat.

Emeka Atoloma fired a free kick marginally wide in the 64th minute while Emeka Ogbugh shot straight at Ojo after embarking on a mazy run that left two Sunshine Stars defenders for dead in the 75th minute.

Substitute, Bernard Ovoke brought pace, urgency and trickery into the United forward line after he replaced Nzube Anaezemba but there was to be no positive end product.

The electrifying winger created an important opening at the death but Lukman Mohammed, another second half entrant could only hit the side netting.

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The hosts were however not to be denied; they defended stoically in the closing stages to claim a deserved win in the end.

Head coach of the Akure club, Kayode Olujohungbe spoke exclusively to our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng after the game pointing out Saka’s first half goal as the turning point in the game.

“The game was won when they relaxed in defence in the first half.

“I knew the best they could get against us was a draw and all they needed to do was to keep us out and they would have gotten a goalless draw,” he said.

The Rivers United technical manager, Stanley Eguma also identified his side’s fleeting loss of concentration in the first stanza as the major reason for the loss to the Owena Whales.

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“It wasn’t a bad game. We lost as a result of a loss of concentration in the first half after some careless marking in midfield.

“It affected our game plan but we learned a big lesson today to always keep our concentration for an entire game.

“We really wanted to win today but it was not to be,” he said.

The victory came with rich rewards for Sunshine Stars as they left the relegation zone and now sit in 11th place on the league standings while United stay in 14th with 10 points from eight games.

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Match statistics 

Sunshine Stars: Ojo Olorunleke, Kehinde Adedipe, Ambrose Onyema, Boboye Ezekiel, Nojeem Raji, Ogor  Kelechi, Peter Iyamu (Sunday  Oluwadare 48’), Sikiru Alimi (Bright Babatunde 70’), Samad Kadiri (Kola Anubi 81’), Ayo Saka and Alaba Adeniyi.

 

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Substitutes not used:  Ariyo David, Okemini  Ikpo, Yahuza Bala, and Abe  Sunday.

 

 

Rivers United: Femi Thomas, Ojobo Markson, Zoumana Doumbia, Emeka Atuloma, Ayobami Asekunuwo, Festus Austine, Anaezemba Nzube (Ovoke Bernard 62’), Keumian Guy (Lukman Mohammed 79’), Asamoah Godbless (Emeka Ogbugh 57’), Esosa Igbinoba and Weli Christian

 

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Substitutes not used: Sunday Rotimi, Ifeanyi Nweke, Douhadji Joseph and Aliassou Sanou.

 

 

Courtesy, Sammy Wejinya              

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian Football

Manu Garba, U17 World Cup winner, returns as Golden Eaglets’ Head Coach

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The Board of Nigeria Football Federation has appointed former U17 World Cup winner Manu Garba as Head Coach of the Nigeria U17 boys, Golden Eaglets.

Garba had, in the same role, led the Golden Eaglets to win the FIFA U17 World Cup for Nigeria in the United Arab Emirates in 2013 – Nigeria’s fourth triumph at that stage.

Garba’s world-conquering squad in 2013 included Kelechi Iheanacho, Taiwo Awoniyi, Isaac Success, Musa Mohammed, Chidiebere Nwakali and goalkeeper Dele Alampasu.

The squad, which finished as runners-up at the African U17 Championship in Morocco after a penalty shootout defeat by Cote d’Ivoire, defeated Mexico 6-1 in their opening game, drew 3-3 with Sweden and hammered Iraq 5-0. In the Round of 16, they ran Iran ragged 4-1, dispatched Uruguay 2-0 in the quarter-finals and trounced Sweden 3-0 in the semi-finals, before they dislodged Mexico by the same margin in the final to lift the trophy.

The former Nigeria international will now immediately resume the role and take charge of the team’s preparations for next month’s WAFU B U17 Championship, taking place in Ghana.

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Nigerian Football

Kano Pillars on  the verge of relegation again?

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BY NURA GARBA SABONSARA

As the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) 2023/2024 season enters the home stretch, Kano Pillars find themselves in a precarious situation, despite being in the 8th on the league table.

They have 41 points in a close-packed league in which no situation below the top eight can be regarded as safe now.

On the surface, the eighth position occupied by Kano Pillars might seem a decent position, but beneath lies a series of crises that is threatening the club’s stability.

Kano Pillars, a team deeply entrenched in the hearts of the people of Kano, holds a unique status in Nigerian football. Yet, recent events have cast doubts on their future in the league.

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Despite a promising start to the season where they occupied the third position, the team has encountered a harsh reality check.

For the first time in its history since establishment in 1990, Kano Pillars faced back-to-back home losses in a single season, a stunning defeat against Abia Warriors followed by a recent upset against Shooting Stars of Ibadan on Monday, 8th April, 2024.

These losses, coupled with a humiliating 5-0 defeat by Enyimba, paint a troubling picture.

While some attribute these setbacks to the challenges of Ramadan fasting affecting the players, others argue that this explanation falls short because the team has been playing in this situation for many years.

Why now?. The root of Pillars’ problems lies deeper, starting from the inability to secure key signings and a lack of strong financial backing.

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Recruitment primarily from local talent pools received mixed reactions.

While some praised the emphasis on nurturing grassroots talent, others feared the consequences of inexperience, a concern that seems to be materializing now.

Moreover, the team’s financial woes, compounded by fines imposed due to fan misconduct, further exacerbate the situation.

Similarly, some close government allies and individuals are forcing the technical crew to recruit their players irrespective of whether they are competent or not, a development that has angered many fans of the club.

Many players seem motivated solely by personal career advancement rather than team success, raising questions about commitment and morale.

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Additionally, scheduling matches during Ramadan, though a long standing practice, has never before yielded such dismal results.

With relegation looming just eight points away, urgent action is imperative.

The government, alongside club officials, must step in decisively to address these issues. Ignoring the plight of Kano Pillars risks tarnishing the state’s football legacy irreparably.

In conclusion, Kano Pillars stand at a critical juncture. Without swift intervention and a concerted effort to rectify underlying problems, the club faces the grim prospect of relegation once again.

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Nigerian Football

Shooting Stars rally from behind to clinch a rare victory in Kano

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Shooting Stars continue to press for the top three slot in the Nigeria Premier League as they clinched a rare 2-1  victory in Kano on Monday evening.

Before now, they have always been battered with basketful of goals in their away duels with Kano Pillars.

In some instances, the score lines were as wide as 6-0. But on Monday, Shooting Stars continued their chase of the frontrunners. It initially looked a continuation of the past when in the opening two minutes, Shooting Stars were already a goal down.

Rabiu Ali shot the hosts ahead and held on till half time. Three minutes into the second half, Taiye Murtala levelled up for Shooting Stars before serial scorer, Christian Pyagbara scored the winner in the fourth minute of the added time.

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