Niger Tornadoes defeated Shooting Stars SC 3-2 in the final of the Nigeria National League (NNL) playoff to claim the NNL title at the end of the 2020/21 season.
After a long and arduous season in the country’s second tier of club football, the NNL, Minna-based outfit Niger Tornadoes, and Ibadan-based Shooting Stars faced off at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu to determine the winner of the league.
The NNL was divided into four groups at the start of the season, with the top two teams from each group making it through to the playoffs, the NNL Super Eight, which was held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium and the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus Stadium. The teams that qualified for the NNL Super Eight were Niger Tornadoes, Gombe United, DMD FC, and El Kanemi Warriors from the Northern Conference. From the Southern Conference, Shooting Stars, Bendel Insurance, Remo Stars, and Ekiti United made it to the mini-tournament.
The Northern teams played in one group, and the Southern teams in another, after which the top two sides from each group gained automatic promotion to the NPFL for the 2021/22 season. Niger Tornadoes led their group with five points from their three games, while Gombe United finished in second place on goal difference. In the other group, Shooting Stars finished top with seven points, and Remo Stars finished with five points to also seal a return to the NPFL.
The top teams from both groups faced off in the final of the NNL to determine who picked up the crown as champions, and the sides put on a show for the spectators. Shooting Stars have been in the NNL since 2017, twice missing out on promotion in the playoffs, while Niger Tornadoes were relegated in 2019. The Minna-based outfit have achieved considerable success in the Aiteo Cup as they were beaten finalists in 2019 and reached the quarterfinals in 2021.
Niger Tornadoes took an early lead as winger Shamsudeen Hashim tapped home a Debo Fashanu freekick from close range in the 9th minute of the match. Their lead lasted only seven minutes before Fashanu handled the ball in the box and Shooting Stars forward Gafar Olafimihan duly dispatched the spot-kick. Both sides went into the break with nothing to separate them.
The Ikon Allah boys retook the lead in spectacular fashion as a brilliant shot from distance by Ahmadu Liman flew all the way into the net just two minutes shy of the hour mark. Their lead was consolidated only six minutes later as another strike from range, this time, from Augustine Bafan put them 3-1 up. Shooting Stars managed to pull one back in the 87th minute through Raheem Quadry, setting up a grandstand finish, but Niger Tornadoes held on to win the match and be crowned as NNL champions for the 2020/21 season.