January, 8 2024.
For the first time in the 2023/24 Nigeria Premier Football League, Akwa United are out of the relegation zone; and the Uyo-based 2021 NPFL champions, did so by coming from behind to thrash Abia Warriors of Umuahia, by three goals to one, at their alternate home ground, the Eket Stadium.
But the Promise Keepers did not have all things their own ways, as they fell behind to Emmanuel Onu's 27th minute opener for Abia Warriors; before Saidu Mubarak netted in the 41st minute to bring the hosts level.
Even before the celebrations for the equalizer subsided, David Philip scored again in the 42nd minute, for Akwa United whose fortunes and dip in form persisted despite the sacking of the Technical Adviser, Fatai Osho, weeks ago.
Mohammed Hadi then wrapped up the win and all three points for Akwa United, from twelve yards, in the 57th minute; as they climbed one spot, out of the relegation zone to 16th, on 18 points from 17 games played.
Rivers United slipped into the drop zone, despite their one-all draw, against Gombe United, for whom
Wasiu Alalade got the equalize 3 minutes into first half stoppage time; after Andy Okpe had scored on the stroke of 45 minutes, to give Rivers United the lead, at the Pantami Stadium, in Sunday's early kick-off.
On a match-day that saw all the top six teams record wins; ten-man Remo Stars left it late to beat Sunshine Stars 2-0 in Ikenne-Remo; with both goals scored by Aniekeme Okon in the first and twelfth minutes of second half added time.
That victory took the Sky Blues from Ikenne to the top of the NPFL log, with 32 points; same as Lobi Stars of Makurdi who comfortably despatched Kwara United 2-0 in Ilorin.
Lobi Stars aka 'Father Boys' are however second by virtue of inferior goal difference; while Doma United FC are third with 31 points, following their 2-0 defeat of Katsina United, at the Pantami Stadium, on Saturday.
Despite not having their head coach Finidi George, in the dugout; Enyimba Int'l FC reclaimed the 4th position, with a classy 2-Nil victory over Sporting Club FC of Lagos; with Ekwutoziam Eze (32nd minute) andE lijah Akanni (90+3 minute) getting the goals in Aba.
Kano Pillars completes moved up to 5th, with a come from behind 2-1 victory over Plateau United of Jos, at a jam-packed Sani Abacha Stadium, in Kofarmata.
Albert Hillary extended his fine scoring form in recent games, by putting Plateau United in front at the stroke of half time; but a second half fight back saw Haruna Abdullahi score in the 75th minute to make it 1-all; before Abdullahi Musa netted the clincher, 4 minutes from time.
Bendel Insurance had on Saturday inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Rangers Int'l FC of Enugu, at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, a win that took their points tally to 27, and sixth in the table.
The match was the first meeting between the familiar foes, who contested the 2023 Nigeria Federation Cup final, with Insurance running away with a 1-0 win, at the Stephen Keishi Stadium, on that fateful day.
The relegation six-pointer between Bayelsa United and 3SC of Ibadan, at the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, in Adamasingba, ended 1-Nil in favour of 3SC of Ibadan, for whom Kareem Ademola scored the only goal of the match, in the 11th minute.
Despite the win and 3 points that accrued to his team, Coach Gbenga Ogunbote was visibly not happy with the all-round performances of his men, as Bayelsa United dominated the first half, and kept his strikers at bay for the entire duration of the second half.
Peharps it was a match the Prosperity Boys would have "stolen", if they had their hitman, Robert Mizo on. But that wouldn't have been as Mizo was only on Saturday unveiled as a player of Libyan first division club, Al Hilal, Benghazi.
In the midst of all of these, most followers of the NPFL had their attention drawn to the game in Kaduna, between Niger Tornadoes of Minna and Heartland FC of Owerri.
It was the first game in charge for Coach Christian Obi, following his rather inexplicable reinstatement, as Head Coach of the Nazé Millionaires by the Imo State Government.
A more experienced Kennedy Boboye was the Coach asked to stepdown, despite garnering 8 points from the six matches he took charge of; and that includes a resounding 3-1 thrashing on Match-day 16; his last game in charge.
Heartland FC started on the back foot, and were soon behind when Akintunde Azeez opened scoring in the 11th minute. Heartland FC responded with quick-fire goals from Clement Ogbebe (34th minute) and George Jenom (36th minute) as the Nazé Millionaires lead 2-1.
But Niger Tornadoes, aka Ikon Allah Boys, had the last laugh, as Hussaini Mohammed made it 2-2 two minutes from the interval; while Sadiq Ishaq scored in the 76th minute to gift Niger Tornadoes a 3-2 win and all 3 points on offer.
Tornadoes also swam out of the relegation waters, and are now 15th in the table with 19 points; while Heartland FC are fully back in the drop zone, in 19th spot, and with 16 points - 2 points and three places away from safety; www.ckdmedia.ng reports.