By George Akpayen

After a dramatic start to the season that witnessed 23 goals in eight matches on the first day of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season, we look at the key talking points across the matches played so far:

Mizo’s treble tops the headlines

There is no bigger news on the opening day than Robert Mizo flying out of the blocks the fastest in the race for the golden boot this term. Yes, it is early days but the Bayelsa United man has thrown his hat in the ring at anyone willing to challenge for the individual award of highest goalscorer this time after he missed out last season.

Mizo needed just 42 minutes to score three times in his club’s 5-3 triumph over Akwa United at the Samson Siasia Stadium last Saturday. His feat did not come without hard work from himself and his teammates as Akwa United stretched them till the 75th minute, taking the lead thrice before falling apart to Mizo’s show of accuracy in front of goal. Surely the attacker has announced his intent this time.

New boys Sporting Lagos serve historic debut

NPFL newcomers Sporting Lagos put up a very comfortable display against an experienced Gombe United at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena (also known as Onikan Stadium). The Lagos club won 2-0 but combined sheer doggedness, high-press, pace and focus to see off the Savannah Scorpions. Paul Offor and his men were value for the three points and not even a late spot kick by the visiting side could deny them a clean sheet in their first-ever league game – goalkeeper Christian Nwoke keeping out Mojeeb Odufeso from 12 yards.

Sporting Lagos with their opening day win have now joined the exclusive mention of clubs like Abia Warriors, Giwa FC, FC Taraba, MFM FC, Nembe City and Ocean Boys that won their first league matches as newcomers in the last 13 years.

Akwa United coach perplexed at capitulation

Stunned. Befuddled. Astonished. Wondering which adjective best suits the feeling of Akwa United head coach Fatai Osho, who only took charge of his first league game of the Promise Keepers and watched in horror how his players threw away their lead three times before crashing to a 5-3 defeat at Bayelsa United last Saturday. Two words summed up Osho’s pain: shame and control. He told that his team should have taken the full points back to Uyo with them but for “lots of elementary errors.”

“It’s a big shame that we are losing this type of game the way we did. We were in total control and deserved to have come out with all three points but lots of elementary errors on our part cost us the win,” Osho spoke of the disappointing performance of his side in Yenagoa.

Akwa United’s acquiesce of sort especially in the final quarter of an hour in the match boiled down to poor game management. They were leading 3-2 on 75 minutes before Etim Mathew’s back pass played Robert Mizo through to score at 3-3. Still the Promise Keepers then yielded, or may be it should be termed self-destruct, by conceding three goals without applying the proper concept of managing the game in the final 10 minutes and added time to sign off a disappointing start to the campaign.

Bayelsa United’s performance dwarfs impressive Oguntayo show

The fallout of Akwa United’s loss in the eight-goal thriller in Yenagoa that Bayelsa United edged surely meant Seyi Oguntayo’s debut performance in the NPFL got little or no mention. Oguntayo, signed from City FC in the off-season scored the winner against Rangers in a pre-season friend. He t carried his impressive form in the pre-season into the campaign, netting twice. The attacking winger sure knows how to strike from long-range. Twice he scored from outside the box including a worldie from about 40 yards.

Despite the loss to Bayelsa United over the weekend, Oguntayo looks like a player who will make his mark this season. No wonder Akwa United head coach Fatai Osho handed him a starting place on the opening day.

The gang of one-nil wins

We cannot overlook the clubs that began their season on winning notes albeit by the slim margin of 1-0. Abia Warriors and Katsina United left their goalscoring till the final 20 minutes to see off Niger Tornadoes and Kwara United by single goals while Sunshine Stars got theirs as early as the eighth minute through Emmanuel Oge and held on till the end against Kano Pillars.

David NPFL
October 3, 2023
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