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 By Colin Udoh

Tempers flare on Match Day 18 of Nigeria Premier League action

Enugu Rangers have fallen flat in their championship defence, causing Imama Amapakabo to be sacked.

This is one weekend that Nigeria league organisers will want to forget. After 17 match days of near hitch-free football, things took a turn for the worse this weekend.

Crowd trouble at two venues led to all manner of negative headlines that overshadowed one very significant road win.

But by far the biggest headline of the weekend was from a team who didn't play domestic football this weekend. Defending champion Enugu Rangers sacked coach Imama Amapakabo, sparking comparisons with Leicester City's sacking of Claudio Ranieri.

Here is that, and some other observations from the weekend:

1. Things get ugly in Kano

This was the LMC's worst nightmare come true. After multiple seasons of trying to polish the image of league venues and make them as family friendly as possible, Kano Pillars and Katsina United fans decided to wind back the clock.

After nine weeks without an away win in the NPFL, Akwa United's triumph over Kano Pillars in Kano should have been the most dominant talking point in the news this match day.

El Kanemi Warriors were the previous team to win away from home in league play, but that came way back in a match day 9 fixture.

Akwa's recent struggles also made them the most unlikely of candidates to overcome Pillars in the massed cauldron that is the Sani Abacha Stadium.

But Charles Pyagbara's clever goal after 19 minutes, allied with a combination of resolute rear-guard action, proved good enough to secure the Uyo side their first road victory of the campaign by a slim 1-0 margin.

Some of the fans in Kano did not take kindly to the result, and missiles were hurled onto the pitch, injuring not only Akwa United's goalkeeper trainer, but also drawing blood from a match official.

Kano PillarsKano Pillars
Akwa UnitedAkwa United
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2. Violence also mars Katsina game

When it rains, it pours. While Pillars fans were going bananas over seeing their team lose at home, Katsina fans were exacting their own brand of vengeance, targeting Enyimba's Ghanaian goalkeeper, Fatau Dauda.

The seven-time champions had taken the lead through Chinedu Ohanachom, but were pegged back when former Enyimba striker Obinna Eleje headed home to level the game before substitute Chinedu Udechukwu claimed a come-from-behind 2-1 win for Katsina with seven minutes left.

Although the game ended with little incident, some fans claimed that the Enyimba keeper hit a ball boy in an altercation, rendering him unconscious. The ball boy was delaying returning the ball for the game to restart.

The fans set upon the Enyimba bus outside the stadium, shattering all of the windows, with shards of glass injuring some players.

All three clubs -- Pillars, Katsina and Enyimba -- can now expect to face heavy sanction from the league organisers.

3. Odey continues scoring run

Turning from crowd misbehaviour, MFM striker Stephen Odey appears on course to shatter the 23-goal scoring record set by Mfon Udoh.

Despite becoming a marked man, Odey still managed to find himself among the goals as MFM inflicted a handy 3-0 drubbing to El Kanemi Warriors.

This weekend's strike takes Odey's tally to 14 in 18 games. That's not a strike rate to sniff at by any standards.

The striker, whose exclusion from the senior Nigeria squad had drawn some condemnation for national team coach Gernot Rohr, must surely have given the German -- who was in the stands -- enough reason to check some boxes in his next call-up sheet.

MFM striker Stephen Odey.
Stephen Odey looks to be well on his way to making Nigeria Premier League history.

4. NPFL fulfill youth league promise

In more football matters, league organisers' strategy to groom, monitor and develop young players began this weekend with the kickoff of the NPFL U15 youth league at four centres across the country.

Each of the 20 Premier League clubs were tasked to create, fund and support academy teams with players under the age of 15 who would participate in a youth league.

That tournament finally got off the ground this weekend. As if they were following in the footsteps of their elders, Akwa United's cadets got off to a flyer.

Elisha Aniefiok Joshua scored a hat trick and was the star of the opening round as United hammered the luckless Abia Warriors, 5-0. The youngster said that his objective was to break into the first team within four years.

5. Imama's time comes to an end

This has been inevitable for a long time.

The Rangers' decision to part ways with coach Imama Amapakabo did not come as a surprise to anybody. The axe had been dangling for a fair bit.

Since claiming their first title in 32 years last season, Rangers' numbers this season under Amapakabo made for grim reading. They had only won three of their 14 league matches, capitulated to a 4-0 CAF Champions League defeat at Zamalek after winning the first leg 3-0 and sit bottom of the 20-team premier league.

What proved to be the last straw was throwing away a two-goal lead at home to Zambia's Zesco to draw 2-2 in this weekend's CAF Confederations Cup group phase qualifying. Many of the fans had had enough. In keeping with the irate spirit of the weekend, they went after the coach immediately after the game, forcing security operatives to step in.

Within hours, the club had announced Amapakabo's suspension. By Monday morning, a letter of termination had been emailed.

A sad end to another fairy-tale story.

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

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