Rabiu Ali was the hero of the Match-day five fixtures of the Nigerian Professional Football League yesterday as he scored all the three goals in Kano Pillars’ 3-2 victory over visiting Akwa United at the Sani Abacha Stadium.
Pillars are now joint leaders with Rangers International at the top of the log with 10 points apiece. The Flying Antelopes had climbed to the pole position 24 hours earlier after a 1-0 defeat of hard fighting Wikki Tourists. Godwin Aguda netted the only goal of that match at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium.
Akwa United recently sent out of the CAF Confederation Cup in a penalty shootout with a Congolese side began brightly in Kano, taking the lead after 10 minutes through Michael Ibe Okoro but the lead was short-lived as Rabiu Ali waited just four minutes to erase the lead.
Ali, a veteran of many Kano Pillars league battles of recent seasons would show up again 12 minutes later for his brace and it was Ubong Ekpai, his former Kano Pillars mate that restored parity for his new club, Akwa United on 44th minute to end the first half 2-2.
But Ali had other thoughts as two minutes into the second half, he completed his hat trick before Ekpai was sent off 20 minutes later to ensure perhaps that there would be no other opportunity for the Promise Keepers to draw level.
The much awaited Lagos Derby lived up to the billing only in terms of the colourful atmosphere at the Onikan Waterfront.
Lagos football fans turned out in good numbers and it was a carnival of sorts but they had to make do with the barren draw on the field between the two teams, Ikorodu United and MFM, promoted at the start of the season to the NPFL.
In Katsina, defending champions, Enyimba International were turned back 2-0 by El-Kanemi Warriors in what is considered one of the big wins of the evening. The Peoples’ Elephant thus continued their indifferent start to the season which has recorded two defeats on the road and a nail biting 1-0 win against newly promoted side, Ikorodu United. Enyimba has two outstanding games.
Chinedu Ohanachom made good his pre-match boasts of turning around the fortunes of the Borno Warriors as he opened scoring on 13th minute hitting a left footed shot to the roof of the net with an assist from former Kano Pillars’ Hele Hele.
Ibrahim Mustapha completed the defending champions misery on 54th minute when he scrambled in the second goal.
There was late drama in Jos where Abia Warriors emerged with a point in the kitty. Super Eagles invitee and Abia Warriors defense strongman, Austin Obaroakpo had handled the ball inside their box in added time with scores at 1-1.
Plateau fans were ecstatic and looked forward to another home win but Charles Okafor dashed the expectations as John Gaadi followed his kick and saved for Abia Warriors to earn a second draw on the road.
Victor Namo scored first off Sunday Ngbede’s assist but former Lobi Stars forward, Uche Ihuarulam nodded in on 53rd minute to level scores for the Umuahia Warriors.
Heartland ended their winless run with a 1-0 win off Fortune Omoniwari’s strike that pushed Lobi Stars off the top of the table.
Omoniwari had connected Onyebuchi Ajunwa’s cross on 41 minutes to give the Nazi Millionaires a respite from their previous draw and a loss in front of their fans.
The earliest goal of the day was scored in Ibadan by Izu Joseph on the 2nd minute as Shooting Stars welcomed their former Coach, Gbenga Ogunbote with Giwa FC and sent their man back with a 2-1 defeat.
Aminu Mbai of Giwa was expelled on 83rd minute before Kabir Umar sealed the win with a second goal on 87th minute. But Olawale Isiaka pulled one back in added time but it was too late in the day.
It was another late drama in Akure where FC IfeanyiUbah almost earned their second win on the road but was thwarted by a late Sunshine Stars equaliser.
Substitute Okereke Maduabuchi had barely spent a couple of minutes on the pitch when he completed a classic counter-offensive to put the Nnewi Warriors in front four minutes to regulation time.
Sunshine Stars stormed upwards, pushed FC IfeanyiUbah back and forced a corner kick which Kola Odunlami scrambled in off a rebound. It was their second late rally for a draw at home, first being against Akwa United.
In Warri, the Seasiders defeated Niger Tornadoes 1-0 thanks to Achibi Ewnike’s 5th minute screamer while Guy Kuemian scored in added time to ensure Rivers United claimed all three points against Nasarawa United in Port Harcourt.
Rangers 1-0 Wikki
El-Kanemi 2-0 Enyimba
Shooting Stars 2-1 Giwa
Rivers Utd 1-0 Nasarawa
Heartland 1-0 Lobi Stars
K’Pillars 3-2 Akwa United
W’Wolves 1-0 Tornadoes
Plateau 1-1 Abia Warriors
Sunshine 1-1 IfeanyiUbah