By George Akpayen
Remo Stars surrendered top spot of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) following a two-nil defeat at Katsina United on Monday.
Daniel Ogunmodede and his men would have hoped to avoid defeat in the hands of Katsina United inside the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium after their previous three visits in 2017, 2019 and 2022 all ended in defeats.
Katsina United inspired by previous home meetings against the Sky Blue Stars closed down every move of their opponents and won majority of the 50-50 duels, and denied Remo Stars their pressing style of play.
It did not take long before Katsina United got ahead. Junior Emmanuel Okoko opened scoring halfway into the first period.
Remo Stars could not find their way back into the contest, and right at the death Nafiu Ibrahim who came off the bench for Katsina United applied the finish to put the game to bed and out of the reach of Ogunmodede’s men, who drop to second place behind Lobi Stars on the standings.
Lobi Stars moved into top spot after a 1-1 draw at home to Kano Pillars. Stanley Oganbor scored in the fifth minute for Lobi and it looked like they would get the job done but Rabiu Ali conjured a brilliant cross for Suleman Idris to turn home on 43 minutes to level the score for Pillars.
Eugene Agagbe’s side were unfortunate. They had an attempt on target by Oganbor cleared off the line by the impressive Kano Pillars centre-back Abdullahi Musa as well as three efforts coming off the woodwork including a late attempt in added time after 90 minutes from Suur Kumaga. Lobi are now top with 33 points.
In the southwest derby of the matchweek, 3SC had to battle back twice from behind to earn themselves a point against Sporting Lagos at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Onikan, Lagos. The match ended 2-2.
Chinedu Ufere fired in magnificent strike from range to give Sporting Lagos the lead on 41 minutes but that lasted just four minutes as Kareem Ademola turned in the equalizer for 3SC in added time before the break.
However, 3SC conceded a spot kick after Godwin Odibo was brought in the box and Jonathan Alukwu stepped up to restore Sporting Lagos’ lead few seconds before half-time.
Gideon Monday levelled the score five minutes after the restart for 3SC and it stayed that way till full-time though there was late drama as Sporting Lagos captain Vincent Akpikpi was sent off for retaliation in stoppage time.
In a bid to escape the drop, Bayelsa United ran out 2-0 winners over Federation Cup holders Bendel Insurance. Tekena Garando and Eyong Nneoyi Ofem scored on 18 and 90 minutes respectively.
EARLIER ON SATURDAY
All games on Sunday were moved to Monday following Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations match against Equatorial but a day earlier, southeast sides Rangers and Abia Warriors recorded big wins.
Rangers thrashed Gombe United 4-1 with Godwin Obaje scored two first half goals on 21 and 39 minutes after Wasiu Alalade had fired the way side in front on 19 minutes.
Chidiebere Nwobodo scored on 63 minutes to make it 3-1 to Rangers while Kenechukwu Agu curled in an absolutely brilliant attempt from a direct free kick to make it 4-1.
Abia Warriors had three different goalscorers in their 3-0 win over Doma United. Ifeanyi Anaemena, Sunday Megwo and Ojonugwa Adejoh score on 43, 50 and 90 minutes for the Warriors.
Plateau United edged past defending champions Enyimba 1-0. Yakubu Adams’ goal on eight minutes proved sufficient for the Jos side to claim their 10th win of the campaign.
One game, Sunshine Stars versus Niger Tornadoes, failed to produce a goal. The match at the Akure Stadium ended goalless.
Matchday 18 will however be rounded off on Tuesday at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt where Rivers United play hosts to Akwa United. Both clubs will start this contest in the bottom-five though Rivers United have four outstanding matches.
The Promise Keepers have struggled for form this term which has led to the departure of Fatai Osho as head coach in December. Add to that, Akwa United have not won a league game against Rivers in their last three meetings (D2 L1).