12:00 PM UTC
Match 30
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3:00 PM UTC
Match 32
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6:00 PM UTC
Match 31
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Saudi Arabia
2:00 PM UTC Jun 25, 2018
Match 34
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2:00 PM UTC Jun 25, 2018
Match 33
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 25, 2018
Match 35
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 25, 2018
Match 36
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 By Colin Udoh

Obaje's decisive return inspires Ifeanyi Ubah; Akwa break winless hoodoo

Matchday six of the Nigeria Professional Football League season was highlighted by a derby between clubs based in the southeast of the country, between nouveau riche FC Ifeanyi Ubah, who were founded in 2015, and Rangers, traditional aristocrats and defending champions.

And while it was not entirely a classic in terms of quality of play, it did serve up plenty of drama. Elsewhere, one winless run came to an end, as did an unbeaten run. Here's what we learned at the weekend.

Rangers, FCIU serve up a feast

It was a showdown between two of the country's two representatives in continental competition this season. Hosts Ifeanyi Ubah will play in the Confederation Cup, while champions Rangers will lead Nigeria's CAF Champions League representation.

For two sides with such weighty responsibilities, their start to the season has been less than pristine; Rangers began the game in 16th and Ifeanyi Ubah were 11th but, in dishing up on one of the more entertaining -- some might say dramatic -- contests of the campaign so far, they went some way to making amends for their inauspicious starts.

In the event, Ifeanyi Ubah won 1-0 but that tells little of the story. The winning goal came via Prince Aggreh's penalty, but only after Pascal Sekou had missed from the spot for the home side. Rangers ended the game with 10 men after Ousmane Papis was sent off for a second bookable offence.

A frenzied opening had set the tone for end-to-end action for the rest of the game and, while it did take a penalty decision to separate the two sides, there was little complaint about the decision. With more games of this quality, there can be no doubt about the upward direction of this league.

Obaje makes decisive return

Last season's top scorer Godwin Obaje marked his return to the NPFL by coming on as a second-half substitute for Ifeanyi Ubah.

Obaje, who scored 19 goals last season, could not agree terms for a transfer abroad before the window closed. He was linked with AS Trencin of Slovakia and Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel but, when the transfer deadline passed, returned to his current club.

His impact was immediate, winning a free kick with almost his first touch, from which Yaya Kone stung the palms of Rangers goalkeeper Nana Bonsu.

Next he drew the foul from Papis that saw the Rangers defender sent off before Obaje capped a more than satisfactory first day at the office by winning the penalty from which Aggreh secured the points.

Akwa break winless hoodoo

For one of the more expensively-assembled sides in the division, Akwa United's form has been nothing short of wretched: Coming into the sixth round of matches, the club from Uyo had yet to muster a win, losing two games and drawing three.

So it was win or bust against the equally poor Remo Stars, who fired coach Nduka Ugbade in the build-up to this fixture, and there must have been plenty of ruined fingernails by the time Musa Newman scored the only goal of the game for Audu Maikaba's men, with just six minutes of play left.

A sigh of relief? Not just yet. Akwa must find a consistent run of good results and, especially, put together a run of home wins.

MFM continue early surge

Just like they did last season, MFM FC appear to be collecting their marbles early ahead of rainy days.

Stephen Odey, who is looking quite the business so far with five goals -- including a hat trick -- struck an unstoppable volley to help MFM claim points on the road against Sunshine Stars and move up to to second on the standings log behind Plateau United.

The home loss prompted the Sunshine Stars' front office to issue a statement blaming "hard luck and ignored penalties" in one breath but which, in the next, "charged the technical crew to correct some of the lapses noticed." Make up your mind, folks.

Still, credit to MFM FC. Now, if only they can maintain this form for the rest of the season...

Rivers United lose unbeaten record

Going into the weekend clash at Shooting Stars, Rivers United were one of two clubs holding an unbeaten record after five games. The other was log leaders Plateau United and their unbeaten record remains intact following a 0-0 draw at Nasarawa United.

Historically, trips to Ibadan proved something of a mixed bag for the two Port Harcourt clubs that were collapsed into Rivers United last year. While Sharks usually enjoyed great results, Dolphins often seemed to leave wondering what might have been.

Sunday saw the Dolphins' ghost haunt Rivers, who dominated the early periods of a frenetic first half, only to concede the opening goal. And when they did contrive to level the score, Rivers subsequently went behind again after heavy pressure from the hosts, who also were denied twice by the woodwork.

Colin Udoh is a Nigeria football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.


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