By Tunde Liadi
Rivers United and Plateau United remain close front runners as fixtures of the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL):season completed the round of MatchDay 17.
Remo Stars, Enugu Rangers and Kwara United were the other winners on the day to stay close in the top five.
Rivers United held on to the top spot after a routine 2-0 win over Shooting Stars at the Adokie Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt in direct reaction to Plateau United that also won at home.
Joseph Onoja’s brace in the 8th and 25th minutes were enough to keep the Pride of Rivers at the top with 38 points but Shooting Stars dropped to the 13th spot on 20 points.
Plateau United continued their good home run with their second win in the month of March and their eighth win in the last nine games after a stoppage time winner against Katsina United at the New Jos Stadium, Jos.
Katsina United were almost running away with at least a draw until Buhari Ibrahim bundled home the winning goal at the death to ensure they remain in the second spot with 37 points and only a point adrift of leaders, Rivers United.
At the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, Dakkada got their first back to back home win of the season after they beat Enyimba 2-0. Dakkada have been blowing hot and cold since the beginning of the season but they have managed to defeat Lobi Stars and now the People’s Elephant in their last two home games to boost their survival chances.
Edidiong Ezekiel scored from a great shot from the edge of the 18 yard box in the sixth minute to shoot Dakkada ahead and the Uyo side nailed Enyimba’s coffin from the penalty spot converted by Aniekan Ekpe in the 39th minute after Adekunle Adeleke upended Edidiong in the vital area.
Dakkada have now moved to the 17th spot with 18 points while Enyimba slipped to the eighth spot with 24 points.
Mountain of Fire Miracles Ministries (MFM) suffered their fourth home defeat of the season after Kwara United pipped them 2-1 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
The Olukoya Boys had lost to Remo Stars, Rivers United and Shooting Stars before the Harmony Boys joined the fray on Sunday. An early minutes strike from Junior Lokosa (his first since his return from his aborted move abroad) and Alao Danbani in the fifth and 10th minutes put Abdullahi Biffo’s men in cruise control.
MFM tried a comeback through Akanni Elijah’s free kick in the 17th minute which reduced the tally to 2-1 but Kwara United held on to record their first away win of the season. Kwara United are now in the fifth spot on 28 points but the Church Boys solidify their place at the bottom on15 points.
Remo Stars recovered from their midweek defeat to Enyimba in Aba to bag second consecutive home win since they lost three straight games which also brought an end to their unbeaten start to the season. The Sky Blue Stars thrashed Sunshine Stars 3-0 to return to the third spot on 29 points.
Seun Ogunribide put Remo Stars in the ascendancy in the 40th minute off Abayomi Adebayo’s assist at the Remo Stars Stadium, Ikenne and Andy Okpe’s double in the 70th and 87th minutes through Qudus Akanni and Abdulrasheed Abiodun’s assists.
In the other games decided, Kano Pillars returned to winning ways for the first time in three games after they smashed Nasarawa United 2-0 at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium in Katsina- the new home ground they were banished to in the aftermath of the fiasco that followed their home loss to Rivers United on Wednesday in Kaduna.
Rabiu Ali continued to turn back the clock with his sublime performance when he supplied the key pass for Mark Daniel which opened the scoring in the first minute while Ifeanyi Eze doubled the lead in the 41st minute off David Ebuka’s cross.
The vital win lifted Sai Masu Gida to the 12th spot on 21 points but the Solid Miners slipped to the 11th spot on 21 points also.
Akwa United secured a goalless draw at the Okigwe Township Stadium against Abia Warriors to remain in the top half. They are in the sixth spot on 27 points but Abia Warriors are only goals difference away from the drop zone despite being in the 16th position on 18 points.
At the Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi, Wikki Tourists pipped Lobi Stars 1-0 to heap more pressure on Eddy Dombraye whose team has lost the last three games including the 2-0 defeat to Plateau United in Makurdi last Wednesday.
In the earlier games played on Saturday, At the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, Heartland shook off the defeat they suffered at Ijebu Ode against Sunshine Stars with a home win over Niger Tornadoes. The Naze Millionaires had gone on five games unbeaten before that loss but it took only 11 minutes for Jonas Emmanuel to fire them into the lead from a long range volley that beat badly positioned goalkeeper, George Michael.
Enugu Rangers managed to secure their first win in three games after Chidiebere Nwobodo’s 49th minute strike at the IfeanyiUbah Stadium, Nnewi fetched the maximum points against determined Gombe United.
The Flying Antelopes had drawn at home to Kano Pillars in their last home game and they got another draw in Ibadan against Shooting Stars in a game played under floodlights. They have now amassed 28 points from 17 games to retain fourth spot.