After an unorthodox opening to the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) 2022/2023 season nine days ago in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom state, the season got truly underway last weekend as the nine remaining Match Day One encounters were decided.
Following from the surprising result recorded in the opening game (an away win by Bendel Insurance at Akwa United), much more interesting results were recorded across Saturday and Sunday as teams looked to achieve the best possible starts to the dreaded abridged season.
ACLSports Chief Football Writer, Fisayo Dairo who was at one of the centres pens six of the noteworthy moments of weekend’s action.
1. Game of the weekend:
Plateau United 3-3 Shooting Stars
It is not often that we get to experience six goals thrillers in the NPFL so it should be understandable that this thrilling stuff at the Zaria Road Stadium in Jos earns my pick as the game of the weekend.
Not only that six goals in a game is a rarity, it also occurs only once in a blue moon that a team get to score three times on the road. Hats off to Gbenga Ogunbote’s Shooting Stars who – to a large extent – lent credence to their blistering pre-season form with a performance they can be proud of.
It ended on a disappointing note though for the Oluyole Warriors who led 3-1 at a time before the hosts, still coached by the underrated Fidelis Ilechukwu scored twice slightly late in the game. The game had every positive thing in a football game; pin-point deliveries, exquisite passes and fantastic finishes. And, what is a Plateau United home game without an Itodo long-throw moment? Great game of football.
Highlights of the six-goal thriller in Jos between Plateau United and Shooting Stars.— Bóluu!! © (@theboluu_) January 16, 2023
Daniel Itodo is NPFL's Delap, what an assist from throwing 👀
Beautiful goals all round. 🥰💯#NPFL23 #PLASHO pic.twitter.com/CI3y4u6zmp
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2. Surprise of the weekend: Abia Warriors
Rangers head coach Abdu Maikaba is not new to making bad starts to the league campaign and this was surely coming after the Flying Antelopes wobbled during pre-season. Nonetheless, they were expected to do the job against Abia Warriors in Awka, a venue where they had never lost before Sunday.
In came Warriors who were already buoyed by a surprise approval they got for their Umuahia Township Stadium to host league games this season and another missionary journey for head coach Erasmus Onu Ollotah who has patrolled most parts of the South East in the past ten seasons like a nomadic Fulani herdsman.
Lukman Bello made his imposing figure count to head home the opener before Monday Yakubu, one of Onu’s soldiers at Heartland last season sealed a famous win for Warriors in stoppage time. There were other contenders for this category like Niger Tornadoes and Plateau defender Ifeanyi Emmanuel but Warriors take this gong for their first away win at Rangers in six years.
You can catch the highlights of the interesting game by clicking here.
READ ALSO: NPFL 23 Match Day One Review
3. Controversy of the weekend:
Referee Ndidi Madu (Wikki Tourists vs Niger Tornadoes)
Niger Tornadoes got off to a best possible start after an impressive 0-2 win at Wikki Tourists in Bauchi. The first goal from a sweetly struck free kick by Idris Saidu 16 minutes from time was affirmative but the second goal by Musa Wakili was not without controversy.
The lively David Okoromi looked to have been upended while passing the ball to Wakili who was at a glaring advantage to score, but referee Patience Ndidi Madu sounded her whistle and pointed to the spot a couple of seconds before Wakili found the back of the net.
Referee Madu whose fingers were still directed to the penalty spot then changed her disposition after seeing that Wakili had scored, awarding a goal instead much to the delight of the away side.
4. Dramatic moment of the weekend: Rivers United winner against Lobi Stars.
Lobi Stars almost snatched a point at the home of the reigning champions but were denied by their own indiscretion at the end of it all.
Referee Olayinka Olajide had added six minutes for stoppage time but Lobi goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel went down in the first minute of stoppage time and play never resumed until over two minutes. The referee compensated for that, stretched the game till the 98th minute when John Lazarus slept off, allowed Emmanuel Ampiah behind him before scything down the Ghanaian. Stonewall penalty.
Kenechukwu Agu who had laid the perfect pass for Ampiah picked up the ball and converted the spot kick for a 100th minute winner for the Pride of Rivers, the very last kick of the game.
GOAL HIGHLIGHTS!— The FootBall Skit (@TheFootballSkit) January 16, 2023
The score was 2-1.
Will Rivers United retain the trophy? @OgaNlaMedia @Mike_ThePundit @Dorcas_Koki @SportPaparazzi1 @FisayoDairo @Emiearth @OloriSports @OgaSammyWejinya @mekus102 @ChumaNnoli @TopmostStriker #NPFL23 #RivLob pic.twitter.com/6Abkvk9M8W
5. Villain of the weekend: Yinka David (Nasarawa United)
For a goalkeeper with an average of one NPFL game in the past four years, Yinka David might have exhausted his quota for this season already after he was yanked off at half time against Enyimba by Nasarawa coach Bala Nikyu.
Enyimba’s two goals in that game were scored in the first half from range and David should definitely have done better. He single-handedly threw the game away to the visitors and his club might yet pay dearly for it this term.
VIDEO! Watch the highlights of Nasarawa United vs Enyimba tie.— Olatunde Liadi (@OlatundeLiadi) January 15, 2023
The game was played at the New Jos Road Stadium, Jos and it produced three goals.
6. Welcome to the Big Boys’ Club
After Bendel Insurance’s heroic win at former champions Akwa United over a week ago, the remaining newly promoted sides got to the thick of action of Sunday but none of them could muster three points into their kitty.
Doma United, playing in the topflight for the first time ever were held 1-1 by Edith Agoye’s Sunshine Stars in Gombe while it was same result for Bayelsa United who were denied victory by a Daniel Daga header in Yenagoa while El-Kanemi Warriors obediently succumbed 2-0 to Remo Stars in Ikenne.
These were the best teams in the second division last term but among the Big Boys of Nigerian club football, they are underdogs and favourites to get relegated at the end of the season. Now, the war begins.