By George Akpayen

Remo Stars will go into Christmas as table-toppers in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) following their late show in seeing off fellow contenders Lobi Stars in one of Thursday’s fixtures.

Playing in front of their fans at the Remo Stars Stadium in Ikenne, the Sky Blue Stars knew they needed a win of any kind – one goal or more than – to go top of the pile ahead of Doma United and Lobi Stars who have consistently stayed in the hunt for the top spot since the start of this season.

It was looking like Lobi Stars had fended off the attacking play of Remo Stars until the first minute into added time before full-time. Olamilekan Adams’ corner kick was met by Sikiru Alimi who directed it into the net.

Assured of a goal at the death and Lobi sensing the game was out of their hands as well as a top-two position now in jeopardy, they poured forward and were caught out. Five minutes after Alimi’s goal, Olamilekan also got on the scoresheet to put the star on the Christmas tree.

Remo Stars go top of NPFL one point clear of second-paced Doma United who are on 28 points while Lobi are in third with 26 points.

New boys Sporting Lagos also needed a late goal to save themselves from a first home loss at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan in Lagos against a spirited Bayelsa United. Joint NPFL leading scorer with 10 goals, Robert Mizo, got the former champions Bayelsa United in front on 24 minutes after timing his run well to beat the highline of Sporting’s defence before fortunately skipping past goalkeeper Christian Nwoke to score.

Sporting Lagos created enough chances but failed to make them count before substitute Salaudeen Aliu fired in the equalizer from way out on the stroke of full-time, but this was after Bayelsa United were reduced to 10 players following a red card to Kehinde Lawal on 72 minutes. Both teams remain in the bottom half of the standings with Bayelsa United holed up in the last four.

At the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna, Niger Tornadoes also left it late to edge past former champions Kano Pillars. Bashir Usman scored a beauty of a goal to ensure that Tornadoes earned the full points at the death. Kano Pillars finished the game with a man short after Mustapha Umar was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Kwara United were made to work at the Kwara State Stadium in Ilorin by Plateau United who got their noses in front on 20 minutes through in-form forward Albert Hilary. Fifteen minutes after that goal, Plateau United’s Yakubu Adams was sent off for a second booking, and that swung the advantage to the home side’s favour.

However, Kabiru Dogo’s men had to toil before they could unlock an organized Plateau United. Two goals in the final 20 minutes from Kabiru Balogun (76’) and Sadeeq Yusuf (84’) proved enough to win Kwara United the full points despite Yusuf being sent off for a second yellow card following the removal of his shirt in celebration of his winning goal.

 Bendel Insurance and Gombe United claimed slim 1-0 wins over Abia Warriors and Katsina United respectively. Evans Ogbonda scored on seven minutes for Insurance while Mojeeb Odufeso came off the bench to help Gombe United claim the three points through a 76th-minute goal.

Things appear to remain the same at Akwa United despite the departure of their immediate head coach Fatai Osho during the week. Akwa United’s poor form continued as they played out a 0-0 draw at their Eket Stadium ground against Sunshine Stars. The Promise Keepers have won just twice in their last 10 league matches this season.

A day earlier, Doma United edged past Heartland through Nelson Abiam’s headed goal while the Oriental Derby in Aba between Enyimba and Rangers ended 1-1. Kazeem Ogunleye came off the bench to rescue a point for Rangers after Chijioke Mbaoma had fired Enyimba in front in the first half.

David NPFL
December 21, 2023
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