5 talking points from the NPFL weekend
Despite being shorn of two top scorers, Nigeria's domestic league went on a goalscoring spree, with champions Rangers being the whipping boys after getting a battering handed to them.
Fittingly, there was one goal of pure brilliance to decorate the weekend's action, and it came from Uyo, home of Alhassan Ibrahim, one of those top scorers.
Here are our talking points of the weekend's action...
GREAT GOALS WON'T STOP
Great goals are usually an occasional feature of the NPFL, but since Sikiru Olatunbosun claimed CNN Goal of the Week honours, players appear to be in a competition to outdo each other for most spectacular strike. Only last week, ABS forward Ebuka Anaekwe slalomed his way past half the El Kanemi team in Messi-esque fashion to grab a late winner for his side. This weekend, Ubong Friday stunned the Uyo spectators with a strike straight out of the book of wonders. With an hour gone, and Akwa United up by Musa Newman's goal, the playmaker glided to the edge of the box and latched on to a pass from the left channel. With barely time to look at the goalkeeper, he whipped in a magical effort that ABS goalkeeper Dogo had no answer for. As if scoring a contender for Goal of the Season was not enough, Friday went on to provide an assist for a third Akwa United goal as the Promise Keepers ran out 3-0 winners.
RANGERS' WOES CONTINUE IN BLOWOUT LOSS
Rangers just can't seem to dig themselves out of their self-excavated hole. Just when the champions think they're getting out of the rut, along comes a result that smacks them right back down. A week after labouring to a last-gasp win over Gombe United, their frailties were ruthlessly and clinically exposed by Abia Warriors in a 4-0 decimation. The same team who started Rangers' season of woe with a 1-0 win in the first game, claimed the double over them in what was a hapless Rangers performance. The Enugu side remains outside the relegation places, but only just. They are one of two teams (the other being Gombe) level on both points and goal-difference with fourth-from-bottom Katsina United. Rangers stay above the other two only by virtue of goals scored.
DEFENCES LIKE SWISS CHEESE
Abia may have put four goals past Rangers, but they were not alone in hammering opposition teams in a weekend of high-scoring football in the NPFL. Akwa United also put three past ABS, as did Niger Tornadoes over title-chasing MFM FC, and for the second week running, 3SC allowed three goals past them. Their tormentors this week were Lobi Stars. Ifeanyi Ubah were one of three more forgiving sides, along with El Kanemi and Nasarawa, who only scored twice. El Kanemi were additionally charitable in allowing Rivers United to pull one back against them. A total of 23 goals were scored this match week, an average of 2.2 goals per game, the highest so far this season.
FCIU ON A ROLL
It's five goals in two games for FC Ifeanyi Ubah, who seem to have hit a superbly rich vein of form at just the right point in the season. Last weekend, the millionaire side from Anambra handed 3SC their biggest home loss in professional league history, then followed that up with similarly clinical performance at home to Kano Pillars. Both results will send warning signals all the way from Agege to Jos. FCIU have moved to third, just five points off of Plateau United at the top, and two points behind second placed El Kanemi Warriors. They have made no secret of their ambitions, and will be expected to give chase all the way to the final day of the season, unless Plateau can keep their nerve and wrap things up before then.
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PLATEAU RUNNING AWAY WITH IT
Asked about his title rivals fortifying their squads for the second half of the season, Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye said his concern was about his own team and not what others were doing. That philosophy appears to be working a treat for the former Sharks striker. Last weekend, they were close to claiming a road win, but were undone by a series of squandered opportunities, despite coming away with a point for their troubles. This weekend, they claimed all three points in a 1-0 win over bottom side Remo Stars to further consolidate their position at the top of the standings. The league leaders have now claimed more points away from home (8) than any team in the division. There's still a long way to go until the title is won, but at this rate, and barring a major implosion, Plateau can practically see the finish line.