CLUB NEWS

Matchday 35: Ten talking points

By Clement Nwankpa Jr

Results of Matchday 35 in the NPFL did little to dispel uncertainties surrounding the fortunes of the clubs. Plateau United's lead was cut down to three just as the battle for continental tickets and survival got fiercer. Here are 10 key talking points from Matchday 35...

 

(1) NOT YET UHURU FOR PLATEAU UNITED
On Matchday 34, Plateau United opened up a six-point lead by beating MFM FC and were expected to consolidate against ABS FC on Matchday 35. The 0-2 loss to ABS and result from Agege didn't do Plateau United any favour. It means Plateau United may not actually have a smooth ride to the title as envisaged. Home or away, Plateau United are usually tough opponents and not a few predicted an away win in Ilorin. The emphatic victory highlights ABS' topflight credentials.

(2) OKPOTU THREATENS ODEY
Lobi's Anthony Okpotu scored his third hat-trick of the season in the 3-2 defeat of El-Kanemi bringing his season's tally to 17 just one less than leading scorer, MFM's Stephen Odey. At last, there seems to be a genuine threat to Odey winning the top scorer's prize.

(3) RIVERS UNITED TAKE DESTINY IN THEIR HANDS
Relegation-threatened Rivers United faced a potential banana peel against continental hopeful, Enyimba in Port Harcourt. Many expected the Peoples Elephant to throw spanners in United's wheels but the hosts won 2-1 to climb as far as 11th on the log. Stanley Eguma's wards have really taken their destiny in their own hands. This result ensures they would rely less on results elsewhere to survive the drop.

(4) REMO STARS CONTINUE LOSING SPREE
After losing 0-2 at Wikki, Remo Stars have now lost five consecutive matches (including two at home). Within this period, Shooting Stars had eased relegation woes while MFM cut down Plateau United's lead at the top, thanks to maximum points secured in Sagamu. Who will be next to feast on Remo's 'bonanza?' They seem to have lost the appetite for the NPFL while preparing for life in NNL.

(5) AGELESS RABIU ALI DEFIES THE ODDS
Those who see Rabiu Ali as too old got fitting response on Matchday 35. He did what many players 10 years younger would struggle to do. Twenty four hours after scoring in CHAN Eagles' 2-0 defeat of Benin, the man, nicknamed Pele by 'Sai Masu Gida' faithful, started and scored a contender for goal of the matchday as Pillars beat Abia Warriors 2-0 in Kano. He has justified the confidence reposed in him by Salisu Yusuf. How did those ageing muscles weather the storms of two high profile games within 24 hours?

(6) MFM STILL CHASING PLATEAU UNITED
MFM took full advantage of Plateau's slip in Ilorin by defeating Gombe United 1-0 in Agege. With three points separating the top two teams, the title race seems primed to go into the last day. MFM would be glad to still be within touching distance with Odey and Sikiru Olatunbosun returning from national assignment. Some fillip for the title charge.

(7) QUICK SILVER'S QUICK RESPONSE
The appointment of Sylvanus Okpala, also known as Quick Silver, as Rangers coach has proven an excellent idea. The team have not lost in the four matches since he took charge amassing 10 out of a possible 12 points. The Flying Antelopes beat Katsina United 2-1 in Enugu to move farther away from the red zone up to 10th. Quick Silver did this so quickly.

(8) AGAIN, SHOOTING STARS CAN'T SHOOT OUT OF RED ZONE
Whatever Shooting Stars do, they just can't seem to find a way above the red line. It was a comfortable 2-0 victory over Nasarawa United in Ibadan but they are still 17th. A return to NNL is looking increasingly likely unless the Oluyole Warriors get something away. These routine home points aren't proving to be enough.

(9) THIRD SPOT KEY ATTRACTION ON LAST DAY
After Matchday 35, the top two teams seem to be pulling away from the rest. The title has become a two-horse race while about five teams would scramble for the CAF Confederation Cup ticket. FC Ifeanyiubah's 1-0 defeat of 10-man Akwa United blew the battle for third position further open. This will be one of the main attractions on last matchday due to the formidability of the contending teams namely, Akwa United, Enyimba, FC Ifeanyiubah, El-Kanemi and Kano Pillars in that order.

(10)...AND THE SUN SHINES ON
Duke Udi has brought his midas touch to Sunshine Stars. They beat Niger Tornadoes 2-1 in Ijebu-Ode to sustain the push up and inch closer to ultimately confirm their top flight status for next season.

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