–Glo Premier League Title Chase
A Match Day of contrasting fortunes for both the title chasers and the relegation battlers have seen aspirations dashed and the drop to the lower division confirmed.
It is almost certain that the race for the title has been narrowed to the old contenders, leaders, Kano Pillars and Enyimba International with Warri Wolves and Nasarawa United having an outside chance of a grip on the trophy. The two top sides were winners on the day while Warri Wolves and Dolphins may have seen their ambitions go up in the smokes of sorts after a draw and loss respectively.
Pillars took advantage of playing an away game at home to ground partners, El-Kanemi of Maiduguri that were forced by security concerns to play their home games at the Kano Pillars Stadium in Kano. It is a hallowed ground for the Masu Gida side and they confirmed their near invincibility at the ground with a convincing 3-1 defeat of the Warriors.
Midseason capture from Akwa United, Moses Ekpai opened scoring for the defending champions with a 28 minutes volley but El-Kanemi leveled scores a minute after thanks to Ifeanyi Mathew’s long range effort from 30 yards. Adamu Hassan restored the lead on 34th minute to end the first half 2-1. Pillars made victory certain with another strike in the second half to hit 62 points on the log.
Enyimba left it a wee bit late to give Pillars a chase in Omoku where they went into the changing room trailing 0-1 to hosts Nembe City. Okiki Musampa struck on the stroke of 45 minutes and it was looking like the Aba Elephants have come to the end of their title race when Ugwu Uwadiegwu’s hit the net but had the goal disallowed by the Center Referee.
On 64th minute, in-form striker, Mfon Udoh was brought down inside the box but Ifeanyi Agu wasted the golden opportunity from the spot. The dark clouds were shrouding Enyimba’s title ambitions when Udoh got his 19th goal of the season on 78 minutes of play. A draw wasn’t going to restore their title challenge and the People’s Elephant exerted more weight and who else but Udoh will smash home his brace and tie the record league goal of 20 to keep Enyimba in the race for their seventh title.
Warri Wolves lost their second position on the log to a Fortune Omoniwari late 80th minute equalizer at the Sharks Stadium. Wolves were looking to notch their second consecutive away win when Ikechukwu Ibenegbu struck on the 5th and that lead kept them on touching distance of Pillars until the Christian Pyagbara assisted equalizer left them with just a point and three behind Pillars. Wolves now have 59 points, two behind Enyimba on 60 points.
In Lafia, Nasarawa United rekindled their title ambitions beating off a strong challenge from Sunshine Stars in a 2-1 win. Esosa Igbinoba side-footed the Solid Miners into the lead on 5 minutes but Solomon Kwambe restored parity for the Akure Gunners on the 19. Ugochukwu Leonard popped the winner two minutes to half time and Nasarawa held on to keep all three points to move into 4th position on 56 points.
Dolphins stumbled badly in Benin in a South-South derby that saw Bayelsa United take establish a three points separation from the bottom three. Peter Ebimobowei took his season’s tally to 15 opening scores after 10 minutes but Emem Eduok responded 10 minutes after for his 20th goal of the season to restore parity.
Thereafter, it was Bayelsa that ruled with two more from Jafar Buhari on 31 minutes and Ebitimi Agogu after 51 minutes to end the encounter at 3-1. Dolphins drop to 7th position and probably will focus on helping Eduok break the 20 goal threshold for the rest of their season’s campaign.
Nembe City long confirmed for the drop sealed it permanently after the loss to Enyimba just as Crown FC and Kaduna United confirmed their relegation following a loss and draw in their respective home games. Kaduna United drew 1-1 with Giwa FC while Crown lost their third consecutive home game this time to Abia Warriors. The trio of FC Taraba, Gombe United and Bayelsa United are now in a stiff battle to fight off being the fourth team to go down as only a point separates them and with two more fixtures left to conclude the season. Gombe won 1-0 against Rangers thanks to Cyril Obodo’s well aimed penalty.
In other results, Lobi Stars goalkeeper continued his penalty scoring run with yet another converted against Akwa United. Tsafa Terpase was fouled inside the box on 50th minute and Melai converted for his seventh of the season.