By George Akpayen
Doma United and Bendel Insurance began the year on winning note by seeing off Katsina United and Rangers respectively with identical scorelines of 2-0 in the first matches of 2024 in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) on Saturday.
The Savannah Tigers played hosts to Katsina United an hour earlier than the Insurance versus Rangers game in Benin City and the Gombe side were quicker off the blocks from the outset.
Bala Abubakar’s men found it hard to keep Doma United at bay, and inside the opening 10 minutes the contest looked all over. Two minutes into kick-off, Bidemi Owoku gave them the lead following a brilliant team work. Owoku had to score on his second attempt within seconds after Emmanuel Ekpeyong played him through with a exquisite reverse pass leading to Katsina United goalkeeper Kolimba Alladoum blocking Owoku’s initial effort.
Katsina United had barely recovered from going behind so early in the game, Samuel Enefiok directed home Andrew Majalisa’s inch-perfect cross past Kolimba for Doma United’s second on eight minutes.
Afterwards, Doma United practically took their foot off the gas and reduced the game to comfortable session for themselves as Katsina United barely had a sniff at their opponents’ goal. It turned out to be a composed performance for Akinade Onigbinde’s men who are now top of the NPFL with 31 points pending when Remo Stars and Lobi Stars play on Sunday.
Insurance claimed the bragging rights in the clash of rivals against Rangers at the Samuel Ogbemudia following goals from Junior Osaghae and Ismael Sarki.
Monday Odigie’s side took the lead on 15 minutes following a free kick hatched from the training ground before Paul Obata’s cross was directed into the net by Osaghae.
Benjamin Tanimu also made Rangers goalkeeper Detan Ogundare work when his free kick from all of 35 yards was kept out.
Despite Kazeem Ogunleye’s creative play for Rangers in the middle of the pack, it was Insurance that got that second goal when Ismael Sarki benefited from a defensive blunder to score on 61 minutes.
On 70 minutes, Divine Nwachukwu nearly make it 3-0 to Insurance but failed to wrap his foot around the ball to allow Ogundare make an easy save.
The Flying Antelopes tried in a last-gasp effort to make the contest a nervy end for Insurance and came off failing to find the net.
Bendel Insurance move into fourth place from their previous seventh position. They now have 27 points.