By George Akpayen

Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) champions Enyimba began the second round of the season with a narrow 1-0 win over Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) at the Enyimba Stadium in Aba on Saturday.

Chijioke Mbaoma’s goal in the first half proved sufficient as the People’s Elephant held on to claim the full points that ensured they moved into the top-three and within a point of table-topping Lobi Stars who play on the road at Plateau United on Sunday.

Enyimba assistant coach, Yemi Olarenwaju, who stood in place of his boss Finidi George, named three new signings, Uche Collins, Bernard Ovoke and Muyiwa Alade in the matchday squad with Alade starting while 3SC head coach Gbenga Ogunbote handed his latest acquisition Victor Ehibe a starting place at left-back.

In the opening moments Imo Obot’s effort was kept out by 3SC goalkeeper Okiemute Odah as the away side packed the middle of the park in a bid to frustrate Enyimba which they did until a minute before the break.

Before Enyimba’s goal, 3SC had a chance to score on 40 minutes but Alex Aghahowa watched as his effort came off the foot of Ani Ozoemena’s post to the relief of the home side’s bench.

Four minutes later, Eze Ekwutoziam who was impressive in the game took the Ehibe on dinking run before slicing his cross into the box for Mbaoma to expertly side-foot past Odah for what turned out to be the only goal of the contest.

Enyimba now have 35 points while the loss leaves 3SC outside of the top half of the table on 26 points.

Earlier in the day in a 2pm kickoff, Heartland battled back late to claim a point off Kano Pillars who played the final 17 minutes with a man less following the sending off of goalkeeper Muhammad Galadima for retaliation. The game ended 1-1 at the Enyimba Stadium.

Kano Pillars made life uncomfortable for their hosts with their short-passing play and it played to their advantage when Ibrahim Mustapha Yuga opened scoring on 29 minutes.

The Kano club held on to their lead into the break and almost until the end of the game no thanks to Galadima’s unsporting behaviour on 73 minutes that earned him a straight red card.

Malachy Ohawume’s acrobatic finish on 90 minutes saved Heartland from a second home defeat this season. The Naze Millionaires move out of bottom place albeit a superior goals difference until Sunday’s matches involving the bottom-two of Bayelsa United and Gombe United, who go head-to-head in a six-pointer.

Eight matches will be played on Sunday with four of them live on StarTimes and NPFL-Live.

David NPFL
February 17, 2024
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