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NPFL review: Okpotu hat-trick hero, Obaje brace wins it for FCIU

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By Dami Ugbane
Tony Okpotu was the star on match-day 19, as the talented Lobi Stars forward netted a hat-trick to become only the fourth player to achieve the feat this season.

Godwin Obaje completed a comeback win for FC Ifeanyi Ubah against Shooting Stars, netting a second-half brace from the spot.

Plateau United are the mid-season champions while Remo Stars, despite their best efforts, succumbed to defeat by Enyimba to remain in 19th place.

ENYIMBA 1 – 0 REMO STARS

Enyimba defeated Remo Stars by a lone goal in a surprisingly low-scoring encounter at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar, an outcome which extended their unbeaten home record to 63 games.

Sensing the opportunity to end the first stage of the league on a high against less formidable opponents, Musa Mustapha headed his effort against the upright, much to his disappointment.

Stephen Chukwude gave Enyimba the lead in the 41st minute, curling in a brilliant free kick.

The People’s Elephant disappointingly failed to make their home advantage count with further goals in the game, not making any notable incursions on the Remo Stars defence in the second half. This saved the blushes of the away side from succumbing to a massacre, though they remain a spot above rock bottom on the table.

PLATEAU UNITED 3 – 0 KATSINA UNITED

Plateau United ended the first stage of the league in top position, zooming to the top in some style following a comfortable 3-0 home win against Katsina United.

The Kennedy Boboye-coached team had the upper hand heading into this encounter, with the prospects of actualising their ambitions of being league champions at the end of the season were only going to be halfway completed with a routine win.

The home team went into half-time a goal ahead and doubled their advantage two minutes after the restart, through Kabiru Umar, who jabbed in Daniel Itodo’s long throw-in.

Buoyed by the vocal home support, Chima Ndukwu was just whiskers away from adding a third goal for his side, but his effort was well saved by Yinka David.

The third goal and icing on the cake came in the 85th minute, with Jimmy Ambrose unleashing a powerful long-range strike which sailed into the back of the net.

ABIA WARRIORS 2 – 0 WIKKI TOURISTS

Abia Warriors were two goals to the good against a helpless Wikki Tourists team, thanks to Ndifreke Effiong’s brace.

The strikes earned the versatile player a place in the history books as the first player to score in every season the Umuahia-based club has played in the top flight.

Effiong handed his side the lead in the 19th minute, much to the excitement of the chanting crowd. Godwin Zaki unbelievably missed a golden opportunity to double the lead, after some great work by the impressive Effiong.

The home team received a penalty late on in the game, after Sherif Bashir was upended in the opposition box.

Effiong made no mistake, expertly converting his effort to ensure Abia Warriors ended in sixth position and on a winning note at the end of the first stage of the league season.

EL-KANEMI WARRIORS 1 – 0 ABS FC

Mathias Samuel struck a goal late in the first half to ensure El-Kanemi Warriors won a 23rd consecutive league game against ABS FC, the sixth successive away defeat of the Ilorin-based club this season.

It was always going to be only possible outcome in this encounter, an El-Kanemi win, judging from their home form and enviable league position.

Samuel should have applied a better finish to a golden opportunity after Suleiman Dogo, in goal for ABS FC, gifted the midfielder an opening with some poor goalkeeping.

However, there was no stopping the impressive Samuel who has made it a habit of scoring in El-Kanemi’s home games this season. The attacking midfielder struck a shot from way out in the 41st minute to hand his side the lead at half-time, his 10th goal of the season.

There was limited goal-mouth action in the second half – the only notable effort was a Samuel free kick punched to safety by Dogo.

AKWA UNITED 2 – 0 MFM FC

First-half goals from Alhassan Ibrahim and Ubong Friday earned Akwa United a win against MFM FC in a thrilling encounter at the Nest of Champions.

The home side took the lead just past the half-hour mark, when the impressive Ibrahim tapped in Kodjovi Dadzie’s left-footed cross – his 10th of the season. This unsettled the away team, knowing at that point their leadership position was threatened.

Friday doubled the lead for Akwa United in the 31st minute, his fourth goal of the league season.

Friday was apparently in the mood on the day, as he crashed a 30-yard strike against the crossbar.

MFM FC looked a shadow of themselves in this game. Ifeanyi Ifeanyi bossed the midfield against former team-mates, helping his side retain possession which rendered the visiting team largely ineffective.

The midfield trio of Akwa United kept finding spaces behind the MFM FC defence, and on more than two occasions they found Christian Pyagbara in good positions but the talented forward failed to make his efforts count.

Stephen Odey had a great opportunity to reduce the deficit late on, failing to take advantage of a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. This miss denied him his 15th league goal of the season.

NIGER TORNADOES 1- 0 KANO PILLARS

Niger Tornadoes defeated Kano Pillars in Lokoja in a one-sided encounter dominated by the home team, a result which leaves Pillars without a win in five successive league games and a spot outside the top half of the table.

Yusuf Mohammed, in goal for the away team was busy – producing notable saves in the opening half from Ebenezer Odeyemi and Wakili Musa. The closest Kano Pillars came to scoring in the first half was an Adamu Mohammed header via a good cross from Chris Madaki.

The second half had barely started when Odeyemi struck an absolutely beautiful goal to give Tornadoes the lead. The game was drab afterwards, with no goal-mouth action, and both teams appearing content to contain each other.


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FC IFEANYI UBAH 2 – 1 SHOOTING STARS

Two second-half penalties by Godwin Obaje earned FC Ifeanyi Ubah a home win against 10-man Shooting Stars, despite the best efforts of the visiting team who took the lead early on, only to succumb to some last-minute poor defending.

The visiting team from Ibadan showed no nerves in the opening exchanges, deservedly going ahead in the 21st minute through Sunday Faleye’s goal.

This appeared to bring out the best in the home team, searching an equaliser. Charles Tembe, in goal for Shooting Stars, had a busy day afterwards. He was called to action on numerous occasions, producing superb saves.

Obaje missed a golden opportunity to draw his side level at the end of the first half, heading off target from four yards out after having been set up by Prince Aggreh’s cross.

Junior Ayobami was given his marching orders, a second yellow card on the day for a foul on Pascal Seka, while attempting to clear in his area. Obaje atoned for his earlier miss, making no mistake from the spot to draw his team level.

The hosts upped the pressure but found Tambe in no mood to be beaten, denying Obaje and Ifeanyi Onuigbo with a hat-trick of saves.

Olabisi Samuel handled the ball while attempting to clear a corner kick, which resulted in a penalty awarded to the home team, the second on the day and ninth of the season.

Obaje did the honours, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way for a second time, to extend his side’s unbeaten run to seven matches and finish the first stage in eighth position.

LOBI STARS 3 – 1 SUNSHINE STARS

Tony Okpotu was the star on the day, netting a hat-trick against favourite opponents Sunshine Stars. This was his fifth goal in four games against the Akure-based club in a convincing one-sided win in Makurdi.

The home team took a while to break down the resilience of the away team, who was determined to reach half-time on level terms. Okpotu broke away fans’ hearts, heading into the back of the net two minutes into first-half added time.

The brilliant forward headed in his second goal in the 49th minute to complete his brace early on in the game.

Okpotu was on a mission to humiliate the opposition, but was twice denied by the impressive Olorunleke Ojo, in goal for Sunshine Stars, who proved to be a huge difference for the away team.

Kadiri Samad headed in from close range to complete a hat-trick of headers, reducing the deficit for Sunshine Stars.

Whatever hopes of a turnaround harboured by the away team were extinguished two minutes later as Okpotu completed his hat-trick, the fourth player to achieve the landmark feat this season in the league.

 

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