Rivers United have been crowned as the 2021-22 NPFL champions without kicking a ball after a symbolic 2-1 win by Akwa United over their nearest challengers Plateau United in Uyo.
It was the perfect way to pass the baton as last season’s champions Akwa United came up against Plateau United, who were 10 points behind Rivers United on the standings with four games left to play.
Super Eagles manager Jose Peseiro was in attendance at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium as Akwa United took a first-half lead through a brilliant David Onovo effort in the 10th minute. Adam Yakubu missed a glorious chance to double his side’s advantage in the first half.
Plateau United were not to be outdone as their striker Akila Jesse equalised in the 52nd minute after a quick counter attack, drawing the game back to level terms.
With time running out and both teams still deadlocked, Leo Ezekiel stepped up with a 90th minute goal after being set-up by Naibe Akpesiri to give the Promise Keepers all three points and hand the title to Rivers United.
The Pride of Rivers have now won the NPFL title mathematically as they have a 10 point cushion over second-place Plateau United with only three games left to play in the season. This marks their first league title since the merger between Dolphins and Sharks FC of Port Harcourt in 2016. It is also the first NPFL title by a Rivers-based side since Dolphins won in 2011.
Stanley Eguma’s men are on 71 points and have a good chance of beating the league record of 73 points in a season, with four games left for them to try. Their triumph means that the league has had first-time winners in successive seasons after Akwa United’s triumph last season.
Elsewhere on Matchday 35, Relegation-threatened Niger Tornadoes inflicted a damaging blow on Kwara United’s continental aspirations by claiming a 4-0 win in Jos.
An Issa Gata own goal opened the floodgates before goals from Jonas Emmanuel, Musa Wakili and Shamsudeen Hashim killed off the Afonja Warriors. The Ikon Allah Boys have risen up to 13th in the NPFL standings with their win.