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NPFL Matchday One Review and Analysis

New boys put up strong start, Champions begin title defence perfectly

Matchday One of the 2021/22 NPFL season kicked off on December 17th and ended on December 19th after a four-month hiatus between seasons. Nine matches held on Matchday One of the new NPFL season, with Sunshine Stars vs Wikki Tourists the only match to not hold.

Here is a review of the nine matches held in eight different locations across the country;

MFM FC 0-2 Remo Stars: NPFL new boys Remo Stars  secured the first away win of the season in style as they defeated their Southwestern neighbours at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos. Goals from 20-year-old academy graduate Akanni Qudus and Andy Okpe sealed a comfortable win for the Sky Blues on their return to the big time.

Niger Tornadoes 1-0 Plateau Utd: Fidelis Ilechukwu’s bow as Plateau United manager did not go to plan as his side were defeated by newly-promoted Niger Tornadoes, who won the NNL last season. An early goal from Kabiru Adeniji was enough to seal the deal for the Ikon Allah Boys in their adopted Ilorin home.

Enyimba 2-1 Abia Warriors: One of the favourites for the NPFL title this season, Enyimba opened their season with a Derby against Abia Warriors at the Enyimba International Stadium. Former captain of relegated FC Ifeanyi Ubah Ekene Awazie scored on his Enyimba debut to give them the lead, before Paul Samson scored an acrobatic effort to pull the Umuahia Landlords level. Another Enyimba debutant in the NPFL, Chigozie Obasi scored the winner for the People’s Elephant. Obasi, a World Cup winner with the 2013 U-17 team, scored a free-kick to give Finidi George the perfect start to his NPFL career.

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Akwa Utd 3-0 Kano Pillars: In a fixture that brought a lot of controversy last season in the NPFL, Akwa United started their title defence against Kano Pillars at the Nest of Champions. It was expected that the Champions would struggle following the loss of their top scorer Charles Atshimene, and defensive lynchpin Olisa Ndah, to foreign clubs. New signing Ezekiel Bassey opened the scoring on his second debut for the team before further goals from Stephen Chukwude and the ever-reliable Ubong Friday soured the day for Salisu Ibrahim on his return to the helm of affairs at Kano Pillars.

Kwara Utd 3-0 Dakkada: Still reeling from their perceived injustice from the end of last season, Kwara United started the 2021/22 NPFL season with a dominant 3-0 win over Dakkada FC. Stephen Jude continued from where he left off last season with a well-taken brace for the Afonja Warriors. Former Simba SC of Tanzania striker Junior Lokosa scored on his NPFL debut for Kwara United, as well.

Katsina Utd 1-2 Rangers: Rangers secured the second away win on just the opening matchday of the new NPFL season. New signing Ossy Martins shone on his debut for the club. The former Lobi Stars striker scored one and assisted another for Chidiebere Nwobodo. Mustapha Salisu scored for Katsina United. Rangers goalkeeper Seidu Mutawakilu picked up two separate yellow cards for time-wasting and was sent off in the 86th minute. Abdu Maikaba was left pleased as his boys picked up a hard-fought win to open the season.

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Lobi Stars 1-1 Rivers Utd: Rivers United kicked off their season with a visit to the Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi, where they held Lobi Stars to a 1-1 draw. Dazzling winger Ishaq Kayode opened the scoring for the Pride of Rivers with a goal-of-the-round effort, a first-time volley that flew like a missile past the goalkeeper. Lobi Stars scored an excellent goal of their own as Barnabas Imenger Jr scored a brilliant free-kick. New Lobi Stars coach Eddy Dombraye picked up a point on his first outing as coach of the side.

Heartland 3-3 Nasarawa Utd: The most entertaining match of the entire round saw Heartland host last season’s surprise package. Ajibola Otegbeye scored the season’s first penalty to put Nasarawa United in front before Ikenna Stephen equalised for the home side with a penalty of his own. Otegbeye responded immediately to put his side ahead once again. Goals from Chukwudi Nwaodu and former Nasarawa United striker Chinedu Ohanachom put Heartland in front before Abubakar Abdullahi scored the equaliser for the Solid Miners.

Gombe Utd 0-0 Shooting Stars: The only goalless match in Matchday One of the 2021/22 NPFL season came in the meeting between two of the newly-promoted sides. Both sides cancelled each other out in the game. In the game, Shooting Stars’ Henry Ndidi picked up the first red card of the season in the NPFL.

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Salahudeen Sulayman

Sulayman is a sports enthusiast and budding Sports writer. You can reach him on Twitter @Sulayman_Salah

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