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Nigerian Football

Big Boys Scramble for CAF Confederation Cup Ticket

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BY GEORGE AKPAYEN.

With MFM and Plateau United already assured of CAF Champions League spots, two of the big hitters are now left scrambling for what looks like crumbs from the table – a place in the less-fancied CAF Confederation Cup.

Rangers, Rivers United and Kano Pillars initially tipped to finish in the top-three have found the going tough while the fight for third place is now between Akwa United and Enyimba with the former having their tails between their legs going into the final day.
The Peoples Elephant are favourites to land the final place in the top-three ahead of Akwa United as they have a point superior over Abdu Maikaba’s team.

Nevertheless they have to prove that when they face relegation-threatened Katsina United at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar where they have won their last 13 home games.

The Promise Keepers will only hope Katsina United do them a favour while they aim to pull off a win over Kano Pillars as the race for third place is out of their hands to determine.

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THE BOTTOM-FOUR

Remo Stars and Gombe United do not have their fate in their hands any longer as they have been relegated. Two spots are now left to be confirmed to complete the quartet that will drop to the second tier at the end of this campaign.
Mathematically, 13 clubs – from sixth to 18th position on the league table – could end up being relegated.

In 18th-place ABS FC have 50 points and Lobi in sixth have 53 but it will take the Ilorin club a huge Cricket-like score line to usurp Lobi depending on results elsewhere as they play on the road.
For ABS, Wikki Tourists and Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC), it looks like a touch-and-go situation as a slip-up by any of them in their games on the road at Nasarawa United, Gombe United and Niger Tornadoes could mean the tolling of a bell.

However, Abia Warriors, Tornadoes, Sunshine Stars, Katsina United, Rivers United, El-Kanemi, Rangers, FC IfeanyiUbah and Nasarawa United complete the roll call of the 13 still in the battle for survival.

                      INDIVIDUAL BATTLES

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Lobi Stars, still statistically in the race for survival will look up to their leading scorer Anthony Okpotu to help them in the final day game at FC IfeanyiUbah.

Okpotu will also look to finish top scorer in the league this term. He needs just a goal to do so, and at the same time reach 70 goals in the NPFL especially with MFM’s Stephen Odey on same 18 goals with him now in Switzerland to tie up a deal with a club.
The battle for the gloves is already done and dusted with Nasarawa United goalkeeper Suraj Ayeleso on 15 clean sheets, two more than Mustapha Aliko of Tornadoes and Akwa United’s Olorunleke Ojo. Aliko and Ojo can only finish with 14 clean sheets apiece if their teams do not concede on Saturday.
After 237 calendar days (as at  September 7) of 370 league matches that produced 741 goals averaging two goals per game, the NPFL meanders into one last matchday this term with a new champion waiting to be crowned.

 

 

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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

Enugu Rangers hold on grimly at the top as Nigerian league gets to home stretch

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Enugu Rangers may have broken loose from the pack following their comprehensive  3-0 victory over Bayelsa United on Sunday.

As if to aid Rangers’ hold of the top position, their closest rivals, Remo Stars who were initially just a point behind fell like  papers blown by the huricane, losing 3-2 to Kwara United. Their loss dealt a big blow on their title aspirations as they are now four points behind Enugu Rangers and had also narrowed their goal difference.

They are now third having been overtaken by Enyimba who have better goal difference even though both are with 56 points.

Shooting Stars who suddenly peaked in the second half of the season are fast pacing up, getting to the fourth position and three points behind Remo Stars.

They were dealt a blow in the added time as Katsina United’s Michael Okoro got an added time goal against to stalemate scores at 2-2.

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Just as Enugu Rangers are at the cusp of the championship, the fates of Gombe United and Heartland appear already decided as the second tier Nigeria National League are already waiting to welcome them next season.

Akwa United may have navigated their ways out of relegation waters following their 2-1 away win over Lobi Stars. Akwa United are now 15th on the log. In Jos, former champions, Plateau and Niger Tornadoes played uninspiring goalless while relegation-troubled Heartland of Owerri spanked Gombe United 3-0 just as Kano Pillars dimmed Doma United 3-1.

All the results:

Sunshine Stars 0-0 Bendel Insurance

Rivers United 4-1 Sporting Lagos

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Lobi Stars 1-2 Akwa United

Kwara United 3-2 Remo Stars

Katsina United 2-2 Shooting Stars

Kano Pillars 3-1 Doma United

Heartland 3-0 Gombe United

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Enugu Rangers 3-0 Bayelsa United

Abia Warriors 0-1 Enyimba

Plateau United 0-0 Niger Tornadoes

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Nigerian Football

Finidi deserves our support, says former international, Kingsley Onye

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NFF Confirms Finidi George

Ahead of the first press parley that Super Eagles’ new manager, Finidi George is going to have on Thursday in Lagos, former Nigeria international, Kingsley Onye has canvassed for full support for the new coach.

 To him, the time of politicking and pushing for a particular candidate was over. “It is time for all of us to back the chosen one, Finidi George”, remarked Onye who was a left rearguard player in the 1985 class of Flying Eagles who against all odds, upstaged hosts,Soviet Union to clinch the third place in the then World Youth Championships that is now called the U-20 World Cup.

  “Although I canvassed for Emmanuel Amuneke’s candidature, am still happy that an equally good Finidi George got the job”, he said in a phone conversation from his base in the United Kingdom.

  “The fact that some players complained after Nigeria’s second friendly match in March shows that Finidi is a man of his class and cannot be influenced by players’ sentiments.

  “I believe he will take Nigeria to an enviable height, the same way Amuneke too would have done.”

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 Continuing, Onye who played for Enugu Rangers while he was in the country in the 1980s also remarked that he was on the same page with Victor Ikpeba who has asked that Finidi’s assistants should always back him in team selection  and tactical formations.

 “We should be more than 100 per cent behind the coach. If we do, he will perform wonders. He has his own philosophy which we must allow to flourish. He did it will Enyimba, leading the club to success last season and was at the brink of repeating the success before his appointment as Super Eagles’ coach.”

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s broadcast icon, Danladi Bako hails NFF on choice of Finidi George

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Nigerian broadcasting icon, Dr. Nasir Danladi Bako has praised the Nigeria Football Federation for settling for former international and ex-Enyimba FC strategist Finidi George as Head Coach of the Super Eagles.

The Kogunan Sakwatto, 66, who created a plethora of famous TV programmes including Morning RideMastersports and Second Chance, among others, and served as Special Adviser to a number of Sports Ministers many years ago, insisted the NFF leadership struck a bull’s eye with the appointment of the two-time FIFA World Cup star, stating that George oozes class and character, and an iron determination to succeed despite his public carapace of a quiet person.

“Finidi George has that cultured, disciplined mien and personality that makes you want to trust him with a big project. He understands the meaning of constituted authority and right from his playing days, has always displayed the attribute of a team player. He has always had that calm, collected nature even in the face of pressure or danger.

“Above all, he is not someone who thinks he is doing the nation a favour. He is grateful for the opportunity and I believe that he has all it takes to succeed. I am calling on the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, the NFF and Nigerians as a whole to support him to take the Super Eagles to brand-new heights.”

Bako, who holds a doctorate degree in development communication from the Ahmadu Bello University and was Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission between 1999 and 2002, says all hands must now be on deck to ensure victories in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and Benin Republic on 7 June and 11 June respectively.

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“No doubt, the NFF got this one appointment right. Very much on point. Now, they should endeavour to give George all the support he needs to succeed in his task of qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

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