Relegation Battle Goes to the Wire, Kano Pillars Pick Super 6 Ticket

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By Fisayo Dairo

2014 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions Kano Pillars on Monday confirmed their place in the season-ending Super Six playoff with an emphatic 3-0 drubbing of Delta Force in Kano in one of the full programme of activities on the penultimate Match-day of 2018/19 regular season.

Although many other matters in the league were left unresolved until the final day, Kano Pillars’ confirmation of a top three finish and Niger Tornadoes’ relegation in Group A were settled on a day of twist-and-turns in results across the twelve match centres.
In Maiduguri, FC Ifeanyiubah put themselves in pole position to join Pillars and already qualified Akwa United as Group B’s representatives with a superb 1-0 win away to El-Kanemi Warriors in a game played behind closed doors.

Monday’s trend of results ensured that only Yobe Desert Stars are condemned to the second tier in Group B after Gombe United, Plateau United and Go Round FC all secured results in their games, the latter denied by a last gasp goal at Nasarawa United.

Left winger Yusuf Abdulazeez’s strike in the 72nd minute gave Gombe United a 1-0 win over Heartland at the Pantami Stadium and Ladan Bosso’s men are now within one point of their visitors going into the final day while Plateau United climbed out of the relegation zone with a comfortable 2-0 win over ten-man Yobe Desert Stars courtesy of Amos Gyang (penalty) and Godwin Obaje’s goals in each half.

Go Round FC were just seconds away from achieving the best result of the Match Day but Abubakar Lawal’s 90th minute goal ensured honours were shared among both sides in a 2-2 draw.

Group leaders Akwa United also left it late to deny Abia Warriors a safety net when Ocheme Edoh headed home in the 89th minute to secure a 2-2 draw for the hosts at the Nest of Champions.

In Group A, striker Sikiru Alimi was once again instrumental for ‘nominal’ league champions Lobi Stars as they endured a hard-earned 2-1 win over relegation haunted Wikki Tourists in Makurdi.
Lobi needed maximum points to move within touching distance of qualification for the Super Six and they did just exactly that, once again through the help of Alimi.

Ten-man Enyimba FC also moved within touching distance of qualification with a 2-0 win over Niger Tornadoes at the Enyimba Stadium in Aba, a result which confirmed the demotion of their opponents to the second tier of Nigerian football.

Group A leaders Rangers International ended Rivers United’s hopes of a hopeful Top Three finish with an excruciating 1-0 defeat inflicted on Stanley Eguma’s men.

Kwara United ensured they preserve their Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) status till the final day with an expected 2-1 win over already relegated Remo Stars.

Bendel Insurance also stayed alive with a 1-0 win over ten-man Sunshine Stars in a relegation six-pointer in Benin City. Despite putting up a defensive 5-3-2 shape, Kabiru Dogo’s Sunshine conceded within the opening four minutes through Junior Osaghae’s strike and they had no reply with their case exacerbated with a straight sending off for centre back Gabriel Olalekan late on.

MATCH-DAY 21

Group A

Rangers 1-0 Rivers Utd

Kwara Utd 2-1 Remo Stars

Enyimba 2-0 Tornadoes

MFM 2-1 Katsina Utd

Insurance 1-0 Sunshine

Lobi Stars 2-1 Wikki

Group B

Plateau Utd 2-0 Yobe Stars

Nasarawa 2-2 Go Round FC

K’Pillars 3-0 Delta Force

El-Kanemi 0-1 Ifeanyi Ubah

Gombe Utd 1-0 Heartland

Akwa Utd 2-2 A’Warriors