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Nigerian Football

Riot as Akwa United Crumble Pillars in Kano

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BY MFON PATRICK.

It was one of the most dramatic score line of the season, it also turned bloody as Akwa United beat the fanatically supported Kano Pillars in their Kano fortress.
It was Christian Pyagbara’s 19th minute goal that shaped the score line, giving Paul Bassey’s Akwa United its first away win of the season.
A brilliant exchange of passes by Aremu Afeez and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi following a counter attack by the Akwa United was perfectly received by Alhassan Ibrahim who neatly assisted Pyagbara to score the only goal of the match.
The bulldozer striker was one of the three changes Coach Maikaba made to the starting line up from the team that beat Shooting Stars in Uyo on match day 17 and he quickly made his impact felt in the 19th minute with what was his second goal of the season, silencing the capacity crowd at the Sani Abacha Stadium.
The Promise Keepers dominated play in the midfield as Ifeanyi, Aremu, and Alhassan detected the pace of the game and simply outclassed their host throughout the duration of the game.
Ubong Friday and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi could have doubled their team’s lead in the 23th and 27th minute but their efforts were off target.
A superior performance by Coach Maikaba boys forced Kano Pillars to effect their first substation in the 27th with Nazifi Yahaya replaced by Adamu Muhammad.

The home team had their first real chance to score in the 30th minute but Kabiru Balogun’s shot narrowly missed the target as Akwa United went into the break with a 0-1 lead.
The two teams resumed the second stanza of the game with high hopes, but it was Akwa United that picked up from where they left off, settling in nicely and frustrating all the attacking moves of their hosts.
Goal scorer Christian Pyagbara was a thorn in the flesh for Chinedu Udoji in the heart of Kano Pillars defence. Amaechi Orji and Paterne Counou gave good account of themselves in the left wing and Ubong Friday and Kodjo Dadzie were terrorising Pillars defence at will.
And on the other end, Godspower Igudia and Ariwachukwu Emmanuel formed solid partnership, winning all aerial battles and marshalling a watertight defence.
The home team threw in Bala Zakka and Amos Gyang to replaced Victor Dennis and Ibrahim Ahassan but their introduction amounted to nothing as goalkeeper Emmanuel Iwu was in his right element to deny all of Pillars late charge.
Coach Maikaba made three tactical changes in an attempt to defend his team’s lead. Musa Newman, Gideon Julius and Chigozie Chilekwu were introduced in the second half as replacement for Ubong Friday, Amaechi Orji and Christian Pyagbara respectively.
Referee Omowaiye Segun from Lagos and his assistants were fair and firm in their decisions despite persistent pressure and shouts from the fans who threw missiles into the pitch towards the end of the match. But Akwa United held on to what was their first win against Pillars in Kano and their first away winning of the season.
The defeat was the second home match in a row in which Pillars failed to win and their second defeat in three games, thereby condemning Masu Gida to 11th position on the NPFL table.
The victory moved Akwa United to fifth position on the NPFL table with 26 points from 18 matches and they will next engage Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries MFM of Lagos in Uyo in the last match of the first stanza of the league.
There was however a bitter end to the match. Violence erupted after the final whistle. Players and officials were on the receiving end as angry home fans unleashed missiles unto the pitch denying the players and officials access to the dressing room.
One of the match officials slumped after he was hit on the chest, Akwa United’s goalkeeper trainer Moses Effiong (MON) was hit in the head and two defenders Ofem Inah and Kodjoiv Dadzie were seriously beaten up in the tunnel leading to the dressing room.
Akwa United’s team bus was an object of attack as it was stoned while driving out of the stadium thus forcing the team to seek solace outside the city of Kano.

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

A three-horse race for two continental ticket is set up after Enugu Rangers league win

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Enugu Rangers have broken loose from the pack as title contenders – Remo Stars, Enyimba and Shooting Stars all blew their chances in the penultimate match days as all lost with identical scorelines of 2-1 in their respective away games.

  The title is gone, now resting in Enugu who are having their second league celebrations in over 30 years. They win the jackpot N150 million prize for their title.

  But the battle is not over for the initial aspiring trio. At best they have the second CAF Champions League ticket to battle for. One of the three will win that on the last match day. The second placed team gets the CAF Champions League slot while the third gets the Confederation Cup ticket.

 Another

Coincidentally, the trio will be at their familiar home ground. As it is, second placed Remo Stars are at advantage to pick a ticket if they can pick a point from their home game with Katsina United. It will be their third consecutive adventure in the continent.

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 The fierce battle will therefore be between third placed Enyimba and fourth placed Shooting Stars.  Both badly need a win to get either the Champions League ticket or that of the Confederation Cup.

  However, Plateau United are lurking and an away win by the Jos team in Aba will not only upset Enyimba, it could land the Plateau United a continental ticket should Shooting Stars lose or draw with Sporting Lagos.

On the other side of the divide, the battle to escape the drop has taken a dramatic twist. As the Sunday matches were on, Sporting Lagos initially thought they had escaped the drop.

 But a turnaround by Bayelsa United who came from behind to beat Shooting Stars change the weather condition for the worst for the Lagos sides.

  They now face an herculean task next weekend in their duel with continental ticket chasing Shooting Stars. The confirmed teams for relegation are Gombe United and Heartland.

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Nigerian Football

Enugu Rangers are Nigerian champions!

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Enugu Rangers re-enacted their glorious old days and now the new Nigerian champions after defeating Bendel Insurance 2-0 and Remo Stars losing 2-1 to Sunshine Stars.

 The trio of Remo Stars, Shooting Stars and Enyimba who were on the heels of Enugu Rangers all lost their away games with 2-1 scorelines.

With the result, Enugu Rangers attained an unassailable lead with just one match day to end the Nigerian league season. Despite their pedigree in Nigerian football, this is just their second title since the Nigerian top league changed status to professionalism in 1990.

  Rangers, who are the only Nigerian club never to be relegated since the Nigerian national league began in 1972 won their only professional league title in 2016.

 In the pre-professional football era, they were Nigerian champions in 1974, 1975, 1977, 1981 and 1982.

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This time,  Remo Stars who who have delayed Enugu Rangers’ coronation lost  in a western derby, but retained their second position when Shooting Stars conceded  late goals to Bayelsa United and lost 2-1 after leading 1-0 for the greater part of the match. They dropped to the fourth position giving Enyimba a respite.

 Shooting Stars who got rejuvenated midway in the season can still hold on to their continental ambition when they host relegation-escapee, Sporting Lagos on the last match day.

  Rangers have a dead rubber away duel to Gombe United whose visa to the lower NNL has been issue. They possibly hold the record for the worst goal difference in the Nigerian league as they have a deficit of 56 goals.

 Results

  • Sunshine Stars 2-1 Remo Stars
  • Sporting Lagos 2-1 Enyimba
  • Bayelsa United 2-1 Shooting Stars
  • Enugu Rangers 2-0 Bendel Insurance
  • Abia Warriors 2-0 Akwa United
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Nigerian Football

Behold, Finidi George’s resignation letter and why he quit the job

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The decision of the Nigeria Football Federation to engage a foreign technical adviser is the main reason why Finidi George resigned from his appointment as the head coach of the Super Eagles.

This is contained in the letter of resignation which copy Sports Village Square has. In the letter dated June 14, 2024 and addressed to the NFF President, Finidi wrote:

 “I am writing to inform you of my decision to step down as the head coach of the Super Eagles, Nigeria’s men senior team. This decision is in light of recent decision to effect changes in the team’s rechnical crew.

  “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you, the entire leadership of the federation, the sports ministry and the people of Nigeria for the opportunity to serve as the head coach of the Super Eagles.

“Although, our recent results in the qualifying matches were not as desired, I remained committed to getting our World Cup qualification campaign back on track.

“However, with the recent changes to the technical crew, I believe it is time to vacate my position.

“Please be assured of my continued support for the team, and I wish us all the best for the future.”

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