By
Zazi Bariza
After
about three months of recess, a brand new season of the Nigerian Professional
Football League kicked off over the weekend.
The
return of the league was well greeted by many Nigerians, judging with the
social media response to it, at least.
For
the real die-hards of Nigerian football, no sooner had the first game between
Plateau United and Niger Tornadoes kicked than they took to social media to
broadcast and rebroadcast virtually every bit of action that went down inside
the RwanG Pam Stadium.
As
the first day (Saturday) and its only game passed by, Sunday rolled on with
nine cracking games. Again, the media was placed under extreme pressure by fans
that were eager to share text and pictorial updates from different matches.
At
the end of the match day, several talking points had risen, with the following
leading the lines as the most talked about.
The Away Wins
It
is not every week that you see up to four teams claim victories on the road,
irrespective of the league.
That
explains why when it happened on match day one in the NPFL where away victories
mean a lot, it naturally became the major sporting headline across the country.
FC
Ifeanyi Uba, Wikki Tourists, Lobi Stars and new boys MFM all won away from home
and will cart home with N500,000.00 each from the League Management Company.
Akwa
United, Abia Warriors and Warri Wolves also picked points away from home.
The Surprise
Result
Mountain
of Fire and Miracles FC, MFM, playing their first game ever in the Nigerian top
flight secured a historic away win at in form Nasarawa United, who were on a 61
match home unbeaten run, dating back to May 2009.
The
new boys had a blistering start with two first half goals from Newman Musa and
Chukwuka Emmanuel.
Ifeanyi
Nweke pulled one back for the hosts with quarter of an hour left on the clock,
but that was not enough to do MFM’s rare away win any blemish.
The First Goal
It
took only sixteen minutes of action for the new season of the NPFL to register
its first goal. Plateau United’s Charles Okafor fired home a header from a
corner kick to earn credit for being the player with the season’s opening goal.
No
trophy is won for being the first to score in a season, but Charles Okafor has
certainly become a name to be remembered!
The Defending
Champions
Defending
champions, Enyimba travelled the short distance to Port Harcourt knowing that
they had not lost to Dolphins there since 2011; but they eventually did not
play against Dolphins. Did they?
Newly
instituted Rivers United put the obvious behind them to secure all three points
against the People’s Elephants in their first game as a football club.
Frederick
Obomate’s well taken free kick in the second half capped a poor run of form for
coach Paul Aiyigbogun and his charges who have now lost their last two in all
competitions.  
The Barren Game
The
only game that failed to produce a goal on the season’s opening day was the
dwell at the Dan Anyam stadium between Heartland FC and visiting Warri Wolves.
Wolves
could only muster 14 players for the game “following their inability to procure
licenses in time for the season opener”; and in addition to the departure of
coach Sam Okpodu just in the past week, the only team that will sulk at this
result are Heartland.
Having
seen such interesting talking points in match day one, our appetites are now wet
for what week two has to offer.
Match day 2
previews
After
an opening day that produced 17 goals and the away teams defying the bookmakers
to win more games (four out of the 10 games compared to three home wins) and
score more goals than the home teams. Surely that serves off a tantalizing
second match day.
New
boys, MFM FC, who stunned Nasarawa United in their first-ever game of the top
division with a 2-1 win at the Aper Aku Stadium, will host Rivers United. The
Lagos-based club will hope they start off their home game at the Agege Stadium
on a winning note though Rivers United will find a boost in their 1-0 opening
day win at home to defending champions, Enyimba.
Lobi
Stars and Sunshine Stars will go toe to toe at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi.
This will be the 19th meeting in the premier league era between the two sides
with Sunshine Stars winning eight to Lobi’s seven and the other games ending in
draws. Interestingly, the last two meetings between the two clubs have ended in
score draws of 1-1. Unlike last season when they failed to win in their opening
nine fixtures, Lobi have started well with that 1-0 win on the first day of the
season at Shooting Stars under new coach Godwin Uwua. Sunshine Stars, on the
other hand, failed to make their numerical advantage count against Federation
Cup holders, Akwa United, who played with 10 men for longer spells of the game
in Akure.
El-Kanemi
could find themselves in trouble so early in the season if they fail to leave
Abia Warriors with a good result after their opening day loss to Wikki Tourists
at home. Abia Warriors still have Super Eagles pair of Chisom Chikatara and
Austin Obaroakpo alongside Under-23 national team player, Ndifreke Effiong, who
netted a stunning goal at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos to take a point off
debutants, Ikorodu United.
Last
term, Abdu Maikaba watched in agony from the dugout as Wikki Tourists missed
out on a continental spot, but they have began this season on a promising note
thanks to their 1-0 win at El-Kanemi from Godwin Obaje’s goal. They host
Heartland this Wednesday. Heartland are one of the home sides that failed to
win last match day drawing 0-0 with Warri Wolves in Owerri to the
disappointment of their fans.
Kano
Pillars appear to have found themselves a new hero in Super Eagles winger,
Prince Aggreh, who scored an injury time winner to put Rangers to the sword at
the Sani Abacha Stadium on Sunday after a nervy start to that game. Mohammed
Baba Ganaru and his Pillars will have their title credentials for this season
under scrutiny from CAF Champions League campaigners, Warri Wolves.
In
Enugu, Rangers who succumbed to Pillars at the death of their opening game,
will welcome one of the promoted sides, Plateau United, to the Nnamdi Azikiwe
Stadium. The Flying Antelopes, without a title in more than three decades, will
have to tidy up their act in the final third after their schoolboy attitude in
front of goal at Kano Pillars on Sunday. Certainly Imama Amapakabo will want a
better finishing ratio to chances created from the likes of Osas Okoro, Togaba
Konlan, Godwin Aguda and Chiamaka Madu, who scored their goal against Pillars
when Plateau United come calling.
It
will be a first NPFL meeting between Niger Tornadoes and Giwa FC at the
magnificently-looking Confluence Stadium, Lokoja overlooked by the hills in
Adonkolo that gives a sight to behold. Hopefully both clubs will find that
sight inspiring after losing their opening day matches.
Three
games involving Akwa United, Enyimba and Nasarawa United have been called off
due to their engagement in CAF club competitions. This allows the likes of FC
Ifeanyiubah, Shooting Stars and Ikorodu United to recharge their batteries and
further plan ahead of their next games in the coming match day.
Match
Day 2 Preview culled from www.npfl.ng

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