What a way to open the NPFL season!
Four away wins, only one scoreless game out of 10 and 17 goals across the federation was the nutshell tale of the opening day of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) 2015/2016 season at the weekend.
Only one match was played on Saturday – newcomers Plateau United and Niger Tornadoes in Jos – with the other nine staged on Sunday. By far the most impressive away win was MFM FC’s 2-1 defeat of Nasarawa United in Makurdi – the Lagos boys pouring cold water on what was to be an NPFL baptism of fire!
Giwa FC lost at home to FC IfeanyiUbah in Jos, just as Shooting Stars fell in Ibadan. Wikki Tourists’ 1-0 win over El-Kanemi Warriors in Katsina meant the Bauchi boys have started from where they left off last season.
However, champions Enyimba FC further underscored the fact that they have much work to do to reawaken their flaming form of last season. After losing out in the Super Four contest and bettered by lowly Ugandan outfit Vipers in their CAF Champions League first round, first leg encounter in Kampala, the People’s Elephant, who also lost to Akwa United on penalties in last week’s Charity Cup match in Abuja, fell to newly –inaugurated Rivers United in Port Harcourt.
Rivers United FC itself is a story. It is an amalgamation of Dolphins FC and Sharks FC, two teams owned and funded by Rivers State Government. It is claimed by those who should know that the Government and majority of the population of Rivers State back Sharks FC, which was relegated at the end of last NPFL season.
Whatever it is, Rivers United have brought together the best players of both teams, and Enyimba were at the receiving end, goalkeeper Femi Thomas watching in disbelief as a 75th minute free kick sailed beyond him into the net.
Oluyole Warriors were undone by a former player, Kingsley Eduwo. Defeat by Lobi Stars means Up Sooting have started the season in the same below-par manner they campaigned last year.
MFM’s young and energetic GM, Godwin Enakhena, has assured that his boys have just started, and that every opponent will taste their sting this season. They led by two early goals against Solid Miners at the Aper Aku Stadium. More than Nasarawa, they looked very solid in their approach. The result means Nasarawa United have plenty to do before their CAF Confederation Cup second leg battle with Generation Foot of Senegal in Dakar on Sunday.
The only scoreless result was the Heartland FC match against Warri Wolves, and even that brought some news as former Super Eagle, Sam Sodje, commended the officiating. Across the federation, no one had a bad word for match officials on the NPFL opening day.
Newcomers Ikorodu United showed grit and ability in holding Abia Warriors – one of the strong away campaigners of last season – to a 1-1 draw at the Onikan Stadium. It was the first elite division League match in Lagos for over a decade!
While the Onikan Waterfront is warming up for more matches this season, with Ikorodu United and MFM flying the flag of Lagos in the top tier, El-Kanemi Warriors are hoping they can quickly return to their base in Maiduguri, following an opening season 0-1 ‘home’ defeat by Wikki Tourists at Katsina’s Karkanda Stadium.
Akwa United continued their macho run with a 1-1 draw at Sunshine Stars in Akure, following a surprise triumph in the Federation Cup, top place in the Super Four, away victory over Vita Mokanda of Congo in the CAF Confederation Cup and defeat of Enyimba FC in the Charity Cup.
The big one, of course, was in Kano, where Pillars managed a last –minute winner to take all three points against Enugu Rangers. The big match was watched by NFF President Amaju Pinnick, NFF 2nd Vice President/LMC chairman Shehu Dikko and NFF General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi.
And it was left to Super Eagles’ Prince Aggrey to bag the injury time winner with a classic!
NPFL MATCHDAY 1 RESULTS
Giwa FC 0 FC IfeanyiUbah 1
Nasarawa United 1 MFM FC 2
Rivers United 1 Enyimba FC 0
Shooting Stars 0 Lobi Stars 1
Sunshine Stars 1 Akwa United 1
Ikorodu United 1 Abia Warriors 1
El-Kanemi Warriors 0 Wikki Tourists 1
Heartland FC 0 Warri Wolves 0
Kano Pillars 2 Enugu Rangers 1
Plateau United 2 Niger Tornadoes 1