BAYELSA UNITED 1-0 KANO PILLARS
Bayelsa United put themselves in a position to contest for the league title with Kano Pillars after they triumphed 1-0 in a controversial match day 22 Nigeria Premier League tie played at the Samson Siasia Stadium on Saturday.
No reason was given for playing the tie a day before others but that never counted as the premier league returnees slowed the bid of Sai Masu from inching closer to another league shield at the end of the season.
The only goal of the game came in the 75th minute and was converted by Salomon Junior. Pillars have however baulked at the decision of the centre referee, Friday Awogu from Abuja to award the goal. Pillars media officer Idris Malikawa has criticised the action of the match officials and alleged that the goal should not have stood because the ball did not cross the line.
The three points shot Bayelsa United to second on the log with 36 points from 22 games but with an inferior goal difference of -2 because they have only netted 26 goals and shipped in 28. Despite the loss, Pillars are still top of the table with 39 points from 22 games. Bayelsa United will focus their attention on match day 23 tie against troubled Wikki Tourists slated for August 3 while Pillars attempts to clinch a double will be rekindled in Jos as they face Gombe United in the Federation Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday.
AKWA UNITED 2-1 LOBI STARS
Despite putting up a spirited effort at the Uyo Township Stadium, Lobi Stars still went down to Akwa United 2-1.
Both sides were neck deep in the relegation zone before the tie and the tension of avoiding the drop at the end of the season made the game a highly explosive and tempestuous tie.
Akwa were the better side at the start of the game and they made that count with the opening goal inside the first 10 minutes through a lapse in the defence of Lobi.
Irolo Samuel and skipper of the side Ikpeen Terna couldn't clear their line and in the process allowed Mfon Udoh to race towards goal and his angular left footed shot evaded Terkaa Melai between the goal posts for Lobi for Akwa United's opener.
There was no further goal in the first half but the game burst to life in the second with Lobi at the ascendancy for most part of the game. The Makurdi club’s effort yielded dividend in the 73rd minute when Hamzat Onwuemenyi blocked a goal bound move with his hand. Hamzat received the marching order and Anthony Okpotu scored from the resultant spot kick to level the game in the 75th minute.
Despite playing with 10 men, Akwa United still went in search of the winning goal and it was ineffective Ubong Ekpai that made up for his near off day throughout the match with the cross from which Mfon Udoh netted the second goal in the added on time of the match.
Lobi played far better in the second half but were unlucky to have lost. The centre referee Barnabas Shamang from Kaduna State also deserved some commendation for holding his nerves in the face of intimidation to nullify two goals scored by Akwa United for offside.
The win lifted Akwa United to 17th spot on the table with 27 points from 21 matches. They still have a match at hand while the loss added to Lobi ‘srelegation worries. They are now at the foot of the table albeit on inferior goals difference though they are level on point with Wikki Tourists and Sharks on 26 points.
3SC 0-0 DOLPHINS
The Oluyole Warriors have further compounded their woes on the league table in their desperate bid to return to the continent for the first time in more than a decade after Dolphins gained a precious point at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan.
Drama ensued from the outset when the Oyo Football Association went too far with the enforcement of the closed door game punishment handed on 3SC because of their fans and officials’ unruly behaviour to match officials. The Oyo FA locked out sports journalists from the Week 22 duel just like it was at Owerri in another closed door game between Heartland and Warri Wolves.
The Oyo FA secretary Kehinde Ojelowo who allegedly led other personnel including security operatives, sealed the gates leading to the stadium premises.
18 players from 3SC and Dolphins, welfare officers(from both clubs), both club chairmen, medical officials from both clubs, ball boys, two cameramen (from 3SC and Dolphins) and the match officials and match commissioners were the only people allowed into the stadium from Goal's investigation. 3SC administrative secretary, Demola Alabi and media officer Jubril Arowolo were also barred from entering the stadium.
The game however ended goalless and 3SC are now only a spot from relegation in 16th position with 27 points from 22 matches. Dolphins slipped from sixth position to eighth with 33 points from 22 ties but are expected to appreciate during their next home league fixture to ABS if they seal maximum points.
ABS 1-0 GOMBE UNITED
The Saraki Boys continued their surge to life in the second stanza with a home victory over hard fighting Gombe United at the Kwara State Stadium.
Lordson Ichull stepped forward to score the only goal of the encounter from the penalty spot in the 30th minute for his fifth goal of the season. ABS lost many scoring chances before then with the club's highest goals scorer last season, Abdulrahman Bashir the major culprit. But it was through the effort of the danger man that the only goal came. Abdulkadir Aminu and Thomas Zenke had a nice interchange of passes before Bahir was felled in the vital area while aiming to nod home Aminu's delightful cross.
ABS will make the journey to Minna for their Round of 16 Federation Cup tie against Lobi Stars on Wednesday full of confidence having gone about five games without defeat since the start of the second stanza. They won two Federation Cup matches and had two victories against Kaduna United and Gombe United and a draw against Kwara United.
The Ilorin side have 29 points from 22 games. They are 12th on the log while Gombe United are 11th with 31 points. Gombe United also have a Federation Cup tie against Kano Pillars in Jos on Wednesday.
SUNSHINE STARS 3-1 KWARA UNITED
The Akure Arsenal strolled to a comfortable 3-1 win over the Afonja Warriors at the Akure Township Stadium.
Sunshine benefitted from a good start that saw them net three goals inside the first 22 minutes. Christian Omeruo, the brother of Super Eagles' defender Kenneth, got a brace in the 11th and 14th minutes. The first he had via a header after connecting with Sunday Emmanuel's pull out while the second was another header few minutes after the first.
Matters got worse for coach Samson Unuanel’s side when Alaba Adeniyi made it 3-0 with another comfortable finish in the 22nd minute. Kwara United however pulled a goal back through Stanley Dimgba in the 31st minute. Sunshine's Dele Olorundare failed to increase his goals haul as he missed an opportunity to do so on the platter when he lost a spot kick awarded to the Akure side in the second half. He has scored 11 goals this season to stay top of the highest goals scorers’ chart.
Sunshine are 10th on the table with 31 points from 22 games while Kwara United are fifth with 34 points. Kwara United don't have Federation Cup matches to worry after they suffered a shock loss to Akwa Starlets in the Round of 64 but Sunshine have a tough tie against Nasarawa United in Lokoja on Wednesday in a Round of 16 clash.
SHARKS 2-1 KADUNA UNITED
Former Enugu Rangers' marksman, Tayo Fabiyi is fast becoming a cult hero in Port Harcourt after his late goal which came three minutes from regulation time helped to beat Kaduna United 2-1 in a tension soaked game played at the Sharks Stadium.
Isaac Loute had shot the home team to an early lead in the 11th minute but Kaduna United came all out and got the equaliser in the 29th minute through league veteran, Emeka Akueme in the 29th minute. Fabiyi's heroics however turned the tie around and secured all points for the home team to ease the pressure on the technical crew led by Gbenga Ogunbote. Sharks moved a spot to 19th on the log on goals difference. They have 26 points same as 18th and 20th placed Wikki Tourists and Lobi Stars in that order while Kaduna United are on 13th spot with 29 points from 22 games. It is noteworthy to mention that 12th placed ABS and bottom of the log Lobi Stars are only separated by three points.
HEARTLAND 1-0 WARRI WOLVES
The Naze Millionaires' home match against Warri Wolves was marred by another shut out of the media just like it was in Ibadan. Heartland commenced the observance of their three-match closed door ban as only the players, few security personnel, medical officials and few officials of both clubs were on hand to watch the league match.
Heartland managed a close 1-0 win over their opponents from Warri. Ebere Odichie's effort in the 18th minute was enough to consolidate the Owerri sides' position on the league table. The technical officials too have started their four wins out of five matches ultimatum on a winning note.
Heartland are ninth on the log with 31 points from 22 games while Wolves who have their eighth match unbeaten run halted are placed fourth on the log with 34 points from 21 games. The last time Wolves lost was away to Wikki Tourists in a match day 14 tie. The Seasiders grabbed wins against Bayelsa United, 3SC, ABS, Sunshine Stars and Sharks and drew against Sunshine in Akure.
They also beat Dynamites of Edo and Spotlight of Katsina in the last two rounds of the Federation Cup. Heartland will travel to Benin to face Sharks of Port Harcourt while Warri Wolves have a date with Niger Tornadoes in Akure in the Round of 16 of the Federation Cup on Wednesday.
ENUGU RANGERS 2-0 NEMBE CITY
The Flying Antelopes grabbed maximum points at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu despite the attempt by Nembe City to get a draw.
Rangers' two goals were scored in the second half through Ugonna Uzochukwu and Mishack Chukwuike in the 68th and 87th minutes.
Rangers jumped to seventh on the log with 33 points from 22 games while Nembe, who are in their debut season in the top flight are 14th with 29 points from 22 games. Rangers take a short trip to Owerri to face Akwa United in the Federation Cup Round of 16 tie on Wednesday at the Dan Anyiam Stadium while Nembe head back to Yenagoa to resume preparation for their next league game against Nasarawa United on August 3.
NASARAWA UNITED 1-1 ENYIMBA
The Peoples Elephant continued with their impressive run in the second stanza with another point on the road at Lafia against Nasarawa United.
Victor Namo netted for the home side from the spot but Bishop Onyeudo evened the score line to end the tie 1-1.
Enyimba moved to third on the log with 35 points from 22 games while Nasarawa United slipped closer to relegation zone with 29 points. Enyimba will play 3SC in Abuja while Nasarawa United entertain Sunshine Stars in Lokoja on Wednesday in the Federation Cup Round of 16 matches.
WIKKI TOURISTS - EL KANEMI WARRIORS (Abandoned with El Kanemi leading 1-0)
The game could not be concluded because of crowd violence which has dogged several matches in the league this season. It was reported that trouble broke out when El Kanemi's Hassan Hussein got his team's goal in the 78th minute. Goal will bring an update of that report later.