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Nigerian Football

As Akwa Utd End First Round in 5th Place

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BY MFON PATRICK

The race for the top three spots in the Nigerian league hot up as the season enters the half time. Akwa United’s Wednesday clash with MFM turned an encounter of contenders for top spots.

Table topper, MFM slid to the second position while the victorious

Akwa United leapt into the fifth position on the log. Great thanks to two first half goals by Alhassan Ibrahim and Ubong Friday was all the miracle Akwa United Football Club needed to crumble Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries FC.

It was also a contest of top scorers as Akwa United’s Alhassan Ibrahim brought his haul to 10, two behind that of Stephen Odey of MFM.

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Alhassan Ibrahim opened scoring when he tapped in Kodjovi Dadzie’s left footed cross in the 17th minute to give the home side an early lead.

The Promise Keepers doubled their lead in the 31st minute through Ubong Friday in what was his fourth goal of the season.

Initial attempt by Christian Pyagbara caused commotion in MFM’s box but the visitor managed to scramble the ball out of play for a corner kick.

Amaechi Orji delivered an inviting ball into the vital area. An attempt by MFM’s goalkeeper Nasamu Emmanuel to parry the ball away resulted in him colliding with two of his defenders while the ball rolled into the path of Aremu Afeez and the midfielder set up Ubong Friday who blast the ball into the back of the net to give the home side a 2-0 lead.

Earlier in the game, Ifeanyi and Friday had had free kicks in promising positions.

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While Ifeanyi’s free kick narrowly missed the target- sailing over the bar and kissing the roof of the net,

Friday’s 30 yards effort crashed off the crossbar in what were early signs of the home team’s intentions.

Ariwachukwu Emmanuel coordinated a stingy defense line alongside Paterne Counou, Kodjovi Dadzie and Ofem Inah which constantly kept MFM’s front men in check.

 

MFM’s golden boys, Sikiru Olatunbosun and Stephen Odey both had rare chances of reducing the goal deficit but their efforts lacked the necessary venom to trouble Emmanuel Iwu in goal as Coach Abdu Maikaba boys went into the half time break with a comfortable 2-0 lead.

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On resumption of the second half, the two teams attacked with renewed vigour, playing excellently in the midfield but were let down with the final ball not hitting the target.

Playing against his former club, Ifeanyi controlled the midfield with help from Aremu and Alhassan.

The trio dominated and detected the rhythm of the game in the midfield while constantly supplying Christian Pyagbara with some well tailored passes.

Pyagbara bulldozed MFM’s defense more than three times but could not add to the score line.

MFM, who struggled throughout the duration of the game to establish their plan, did not really threatened as they were outplayed in the midfield.

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Despite both teams making three changes apiece, the score line remained unchanged from what it was at the end of the first half as Akwa United strolled to their eighth win of the season and their third victory in a row.

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

Relief for continental ticket-seeking Enyimba

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Enyimba FC who are desperately seeking a return to the continental fixtures next season have been relieved of a little financial burden by the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation.

 The initial N10 million fine imposed on the team has been reduced almost by half.

 In the ill-tempered match with Enugu Rangers three weeks ago, the Nigeria Premier League fine Enyimba N5 million as part of the disciplinary measures taken, claiming that Enyimba disrupted the live telecast of the match.

The NFF committee disagrees with the decision and therefore set aside the fine imposed.

Enyimba will this Sunday host Plateau United in a potentially volatile match as both teams have varying chances of picking continental ticket to feature in either the CAF Champions League or the Confederation Cup.

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Nigerian Football

All eyes on Aba, Ibadan and Ikenne as battle for continental tickets goes down to the wire!

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A stroll in the park to be followed by victory parade are the anticipated spectacles in Jos when Enugu Rangers face ‘home’ sides, Gombe United this Sunday.

But elsewhere, it could be ‘thunder and blood’ battle as four eligibles fight for two obtainable continental tickets in three venues of Ikenne, Ibadan and Aba.

Remo Stars, Shooting Stars, Enyimba and Plateau United are aspirants jostling for continental tickets.

On the other side of the struggle is also the battle to evade relegation. Coincidentally, Ibadan  provides the venue for both dreams where the hosts, Shooting Stars, will be hoping to pick a ticket to any of the two CAF inter-clubs competitions while the debuting Premier League sides, Sporting Lagos are expected to play the game of their life.

Coincidentally, Shooting Stars were expected to give the Lagos sides the succour last weekend when they faced Bayelsa United.

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 Had Shooting Stars won the match, Sporting Lagos which upstaged Enyimba 2-1, would have been in comfort zone, making Sunday’s duel at the Lekan Salami a ‘merry-making’ venture for both sides.

But a twist of fortunes which saw Bayelsa fighting back to a 2-1 win means Shooting Stars will have to spare no weapon on Sunday to beat Sporting Lagos.

The visitors on the other hand have a mountain to climb to avoid the looming drop.

 Ikenne provides another battle ground, though with lesser gravity than what is expected in Ibadan and Aba. A win of any margin secures CAF Champions League ticket for Remo Stars as they host Katsina United who stay without threat in the middle of the league log.

But the battle will be fiercer in Aba where both hosts, Enyimba and visiting Plateau United have arithmetical and conjectural chances of making the top three and obtaining a continental ticket.

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While the battle at the top of the log is for two teams to join Enugu Rangers in getting continental ticket, so also it is at the bottom as both Gombe United and Heartland await the two others that will escort them to the lower league.

 Battling to avoid the drop are Sporting Lagos, Doma United, Akwa United and Bayelsa.

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Nigerian Football

Coronation day for champion-elect, Enugu Rangers

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Enugu Rangers can afford to lose 56-0 this Sunday to Gombe United and erase the record negative goal difference of the already relegated side. Such a scoreline will not change the destiny of both sides as Rangers will merely enter the pitch to fulfill the fixtures for formality sake. They will be more interested in the post match event – their coronation as the new king of Nigerian league.

 A win will only add icing to the celebration cake, taking their points to 70, just three short of 73 obtained by the defunct Dolphins in the 2010/2011 season.

 But it is taking nothing away from Enugu Rangers who will be presented with the league trophy this Sunday by the NFF president, Ibrahim Musa Gusau.

The NFF chieftain headlines a choice list of eminent guests expected at the occasion, which will see the champions, who will be crowned for the eighth time since a national football league was introduced in 1972.

Their success this season was confirmed last weekend when they beat Bendel Insurance 2-0 at home while their three rivals – Remo Stars, Shooting Stars and Enyimba lost their respective away games with identical scorelines of 2-1.

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