By George Akpayen

Rangers have been officially crowned champions of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) this season after claiming the title in the penultimate matchweek of the campaign.

The coronation of the Flying Antelopes took place at the New Jos Stadium after they defeated already relegated Gombe United 2-1 to finish the season with 70 points.

Kazeem Ogunleye and Godwin Obaje scored in the third and seventh minute of the match before Anas Hassan pulled one back for Gombe United under soggy conditions at the Jos stadium.

It is also the first title for Rangers head coach Fidelis Ilechukwu who had come close to winning the NPFL at MFM FC and Plateau United in 2017 and 2022 respectively.

With the title already sealed by Rangers, four other clubs beneath them on the standings were jostling for continental spots. Remo Stars, nine-time champions Enyimba, Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) and Plateau United were looking to clinch the last two spots from the top division.

Remo Stars, in second place before the start of the final matchweek, needed an outright win to cement their place in the CAF Champions League alongside Rangers and that they did against Katsina United. The Sky Blue Stars raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening 30 minutes through Sodiq Ismail and Dayo Ojo’s deflected strike before Michael Okoro Ibe’s goal 14 minutes to time for Katsina United proved insufficient to deny Daniel Ogunmodede’s men a win.

However, it was a heart-in-mouth situation for the outgoing champions Enyimba as they struggled to break down a resolute Plateau United side at their Enyimba Stadium in Aba. At halftime across all venues, 3SC were already leading Sporting Lagos 1-0 through Christian Pyagbara’s 38th minute goal and that meant Enyimba with their halftime score at 0-0 would miss out on a continental place.

The Lekan Salami Stadium in Ibadan was already bouncing in anticipation of a return of continental football with 3SC holding on to their one-goal lead against desperate Sporting Lagos needing a win to escape the drop and hoping results elsewhere favours them.

The People’s Elephant left it late. On 78 minutes, Chijioke Mbaoma scored his 17th goal of the campaign to claim the top scorers award. Before Plateau United could regroup and find their way back, Alade Balogun netted the second goal 10 minutes later to make sure of the three points for Enyimba as they sealed their place in next season’s CAF Confederation Cup, leaving the aspiration of 3SC and their faithful for a first taste of continental football in 25 years dashed.


Four clubs, Sporting Lagos, Doma United, Heartland and Gombe United, have now been demoted to the second tier, the Nigeria National League (NNL). Heartland and Gombe United were already relegated before the final matchday and had little to play for. Gombe United lost 1-2 at home to eventual champions Rangers while Heartland suffered a heavy four-nil defeat at Kwara United.

Kwara United had four different goalscorers in Wasiu Alalade (5’), Emmanuel Ogbole (24’), Mohammed Alao (64’) and Godwin Oshagbemi (90’) to pile more misery on the Naze Millionaires who will now prepare for life in the NNL next term.

Sporting Lagos and Doma United who began the season on flying notes could also not survive. The Lagos club needed to win at 3SC and hoped that one of Akwa United or Bayelsa United faltered to stand a chance of keeping their place in the elite division. The Noisy Lagosians, as they are called, could not avoid defeat and the other results involving Akwa United and Bayelsa United did not go their way either.

Doma United needed to win by at least a 16-goal margin to beat the drop against Abia Warriors and hoped those above them suffer defeats. It ended 1-1 at the Pantami Stadium. Emmanuel Jesam scored for them to help cancel out Meme Okike’s goal for Warriors.

Akwa United put up a fighting performance to see off Rivers United, winning 3-1. Ubong Friday scored twice, including late from the spot while Suleiman Sani while Nyima Nwagua scored for Rivers United.

Surprisingly, Bayelsa United pulled off a 2-0 win at Bendel Insurance. A goal in each half from Ekeson Okorie and Tekena Garando sealed their stay for another season in the NPFL.

In Kaduna and Kano, Niger Tornadoes and Kano Pillars won their final matches of the season against Sunshine Stars and Lobi Stars by the odd goal. Familiar figures, Bashir Usman and Clinton Jephta, scored for Tornadoes while Lucky Nwafor got Sunshine Stars their goal. It ended 2-1 to Tornadoes.

Adam Musa scored twice for Kano Pillars and Nura Ibrahim added the other as the former champions put themselves three goals up even before the hour mark. Victor Ekioke and an own goal from Abdullahi Musa ensured Lobi Stars made the scoreline end in a respectable 3-2.


Gombe United 1-2 Rangers

Anas Hassan 25’ – Kazeem Ogunleye 3’, Godwin Obaje 7’

3SC 1-0 Sporting Lagos

Christian Pyagbara 38’

Bendel Insurance 0-2 Bayelsa United

Ekeson Okorie 4’, Tekena Garando 31’

Akwa United 3-1 Rivers United

Ubong Friday 8’, 83’ (PEN), Suleiman Sani 14’ – Nyima Nwagua 16’

Doma Utd 1-1 Abia Warriors

Emmanuel Jesam 48’ – Meme Okike 31’

Remo Stars 2-1 Katsina United

Sodiq Ismail 20’, Dayo Ojo 30’ – Michael Okoro Ibe 76’

Niger Tornadoes 2-1 Sunshine Stars

Bashir Usman 35’, Clinton Jephta 66’ – Lucky Nwafor 76’

Kwara United 4-0 Heartland

Wasiu Alalade 5’, Emmanuel Ogbole 24’, Mohammed Alao 64’, Godwin Oshagbemi 90’

Kano Pillars 3-2 Lobi Stars

Adam Musa 31’, 47’, Nura Ibrahim 41’ – Victor Ekioke 60’, Abdullahi Musa 74’ (OG)

Enyimba 2-0 Plateau United

Chijioke Mbaoma 78’, Alade Balogun 88’

David NPFL
June 23, 2024
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