NPFL MD34- Enyimba smash Rivers United, Shooting Stars spank Abia Warriors

The resumption of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) last weekend after a month’s hiatus brought a lot of interesting results.

Probably the biggest shock of the day was Akwa United’s 2-1 away win at Lobi Stars in Lafia.

For context, Lobi, in fifth were looking to close the gap at the top while Akwa United were 18th on the log and looking to escape relegation.

NPFL MD34 preview

It was a very interesting clash with Suleiman Sani showing his class with two goals as he continued to showcase his talent in the second round.

Enyimba won the Abia derby through Bernard Ovoke’s late strike while there were wins for Rangers, Pillars and Kwara United.

With Matchday 34 on the horizon, there will be games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Here is a preview of Matchday 34.

01/06/2024Doma United1-0Lobi Stars
01/06/2024Bendel Insurance2-0Katsina United
01/06/2024Remo Stars2-1Kano Pillars
02/06/2024Sporting Lagos0-0Rangers
02/06/2024Enyimba4-1Rivers United
02/06/2024Shooting Stars4-0Abia Warriors
02/06/2024Gombe United0-2Sunshine Stars
02/06/2024Niger Tornadoes1-1Kwara United
02/06/2024Bayelsa United3-2Plateau United
0/06/2024Akwa United16:00Heartland

NPFL's Saturday fixtures

Lobi Stars make the trip to Gombe to face Doma United with both teams looking to get back to winning ways after variant degrees of losses.

While the Makurdi side lost at home in their adopted ground of Lafia, Doma got plastered 3-1 by Pillars in Kano.

Doma’s case has been strange as the team was in the top four of the table for long stretches but has been poor since the start of the second round.

Lobi will hope to reduce the gap at the top and get into the African slots while Doma will try not to be dragged into the relegation battles as they sit 17th on the table.

Bendel Insurance, with the meanest defence in the league, will welcome Katsina United to Benin hoping to get something tangible.

Both teams drew their games in the last matchday with Katsina fighting back at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium to earn a draw against visiting Shooting Stars while Insurance battled hard to earn a point in Akure against Sunshine Stars.

Kennedy Boboye knows he has to find something worthy in Benin as his team currently sit 16th on the table and are in a race against time to save their season.

Remo Stars have a huge task against Kano Pillars as they chase Rangers whom they are competing with for the league title.

The Ikenne side lost in Ilorin 3-2 to Kwara United to put clogs in their wheels and are hoping to get the three points off Pillars who saw off Doma United 3-1 in their last game.

Sunday fixtures

NPFL MD34 preview
Photo by Remo Stars Media

Sporting Lagos, currently 14th on the table, will host league leaders Rangers at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena on Sunday.

The ‘Tech Boys' have been struggling recently and will face a stern test against the ‘Flying Antelopes,' who have performed relatively well on the road in the past few weeks.

This clash could significantly influence the title race, and Sporting Lagos understand that to ensure safety, they must secure a victory over Rangers.

Enyimba will host Rivers United in Aba in what is arguably the biggest game of the weekend.

Following the departure of Finidi George, Enyimba began their post-Finidi era with an away win in the Abia derby and will look to build on that with another victory.

They currently sit in second place on the table, four points behind Rangers, and a win against the resilient Rivers United side would bring them closer to the top spot.

Rivers United, sitting 8th on the table, have not abandoned hope of securing a continental slot and aim to earn points on the road against Enyimba.

Shooting Stars travelled to Katsina and were unlucky not to secure all three points as Katsina United equalised late in the game, resulting in a 2-2 draw. Abia Warriors, who will visit Ibadan, lost the Abia derby to Enyimba and hope their trip west will be fruitful.

Gbenga Ogunbote has turned Shooting Stars into a formidable team, especially in the second half of the season. Now in 4th place, they have been very difficult to beat at home in Ibadan.

The Umuahia side will need to be at their best to get anything from this match.

In Gombe, the bottom-placed team will face the 16th as Gombe United welcome Sunshine Stars. Gombe, who were beaten 3-0 by Heartland last weekend, have been effectively relegated but will fight against the Akure side, who are also not yet safe.

Niger Tornadoes emerged unscathed in Jos last weekend, earning a share of the spoils, while Kwara United held strong to defeat a dogged Remo Stars side.

The Minna side, who play in Kaduna, are in 13th position, just one point behind 11th-placed Kwara United, making this game a potential swap in standings.

Photo by Rangers Media

Bayelsa United were beaten 3-0 by Rangers last weekend in a one-sided game, and they hope to seek redemption against Plateau United, who also dropped points at home to Niger Tornadoes.

Plateau United have fallen off the title-chasing pack but still have continental aspirations, aiming to crack the top three before the end of the season.

Sitting in 6th place, they face a resolute Bayelsa United side in 18th place and in dire need of points to escape relegation.

It will be a case of who wants it more between the two sides.

Monday's fixture

There is only one game on Monday, and it promises to be a critical clash as Akwa United take on Heartland in Uyo.

Akwa United had arguably the best result of last weekend, defeating Lobi Stars 2-1 in Lafia.

Babaganaru Mohammed’s wards were superb on the day, with Suleiman Sani grabbing a brace as Akwa climbed out of the relegation zone, now sitting in 15th position.

Akwa United v Heartland
Photo by Akwa United Media

Akwa United have a chance to climb further up the table when Heartland come to town, seeking to find a way out of their precarious situation.

Heartland are in dire straits, having had a torrid season marred by administrative issues and coaching malfeasance.

With just 32 points from 33 games, it is hard to see them escaping the drop. This match is a must-win for both teams as they fight to avoid relegation.

As the league enters its final stretch, the race for points and positions continues to heat up, and Matchday 34 will paint a clearer picture of who will be demoted and who will lift the title.

Saturday's results

It was a very tough game at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin as Bendel Insurance and Katsina United went at it.

At the end two second half goals from Chisom Okereke in the 64th minute and Evans Ogbonda gave Bendel Insurance a 2-0 win over Katsina United.

In Ikenne, a howler from Kano Pillars goalkeeper Mohammed Galadima in the dying minutes of the game gave Remo Stars a 2-1 win over Kano Pillars.

Needing to keep up with Rangers at the top of the table, Remo went ahead through young defender Ahmed Akinyele who score his fourth of the season in the 6th minute.

Remo Stars goalkeeper Kayode Bankole then gifted Kano Pillars the equaliser three minutes after the break and it looked like Pillars were going to get a share of the spoils before Galadima's moment of madness enabled Nduka Junior to get the winner.

In Gombe, Doma started their fight against relegation with a 1-0 win over Lobi Stars who have now lost two games on the bounce.

Musa Usman scored with a header in the 26th minute to and the Gombe side the three points and some ease to breath as they wait for Sunday's games to see if they a step to safety or back in the relegation zone.

Sunday's results

In arguably the game of the weekend, Enyimba triumphed over Rivers United with a 4-1 victory in a one-sided encounter in Aba.

Chijioke Mbaoma celebrates his goal against Rivers United
Photo by Enyimba Media

Rivers United started strongly, with in-form striker Andy Okpe opening the scoring just 14 minutes into the game.

However, Enyimba quickly responded, with league top scorer Chijioke Mbaoma equalizing. Mbaoma then added his 16th goal of the season, demonstrating why he is the league's top scorer.

Elijah Akanni followed with a brace, making it four goals for Enyimba and leaving Rivers United with no chance of recovery.

This victory not only highlighted Enyimba's attacking prowess but also their defensive solidity, as they successfully shut down Rivers United after the initial goal.

League leaders Rangers were held to a goalless draw at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos.

Sporting Lagos huffed and puffed, creating several opportunities but failing to get past Japhet Opubo, who was outstanding in goal for Rangers.

The point earned was hugely celebrated by Rangers' coach Fidelis Ilechukwu and their supporters, as they continue their quest for a first NPFL title since 2016.

This draw maintained Rangers' position at the top of the table, showcasing their defensive strength and ability to secure crucial points even in tough away matches.

Niger Tornadoes and Kwara United played out a thrilling 1-1 draw at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna. Kwara United took the lead in the 64th minute with Dehinde Ibrahim scoring.

The visitors looked set to secure all three points until Bashir Usman scored his 10th goal of the season in virtually the last kick of the game, drawing the Minna side level.

Niger Tornadoes vs Kwara United
Photo by Niger Tornadoes Media

Plateau United attempted a late rally to earn a point in Yenagoa against Bayelsa United after going three goals down in the first 60 minutes.

Magbisa Wisdom, Ganado Tekena, and Bassey John put the home side ahead as they cruised to a 3-0 lead.

Despite the daunting deficit, Plateau United fought back with two late goals from Bernard Mundi and Alex Enejoh, demonstrating their resilience but unfortunately, it was not enough.

However, their efforts fell short, and they could not complete the comeback, resulting in a 3-2 loss.

Gombe’s demotion to the second tier was officially confirmed on Sunday after they lost at home to visiting Sunshine Stars.

Promise Awosanmi and Lucky Nwafor scored for the Akure side, earning them all three points and further distancing themselves from relegation worries.

This defeat was a significant blow for Gombe, marking the end of their campaign in the top tier.

Sunshine Stars, on the other hand, secured a crucial victory that boosts their chances of staying in the NPFL.

Monday's result

Akwa United have helped their cause towards escaping relegation with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Heartland at the Nest of Champions in Uyo.

Both teams went at it and had chances to take the lead but there was no goals in the first half.

The second half was much different as it was all Akwa United and they got their due rewards.

Ubong Friday put them ahead in the 61st minute and go the second through an own goal by Heartland's Anozie.

With the result, Akwa United are now in 14th place on the table with 43 points while Heartland remain rooted in 19th place with a measly 32 points.

NPFL MD34- Enyimba smash Rivers United, Shooting Stars spank Abia Warriors
Andrew Randa

Andrew Randa is a veteran Nigerian sports journalist with over 20 years of experience covering the beautiful game across Africa. Andrew served as a Media Officer for Nigeria's U-20 Men's National Team for three years, offering a unique perspective on the future stars of Nigerian football.

Beyond reporting, Andrew is a pioneer in sports graphics creation within Nigeria. His expertise extends to sports kit design, making him a true multi-faceted talent in the African sports landscape.

Andrew's experience is vast, with collaborations encompassing prestigious names like Kickoff, SuperSport, the NFF (Nigeria Football Federation), and the NPFL (Nigeria Professional Football League)