Football Made in Nigeria: NPL Roundup

Edwin  - CEO December 22, 2023
Updated 2023/12/23 at 12:27 PM
24 Min Read

Latest News around the arenas



Anchored by Ed Emeanua


Nigeria football philosophy borders on a robust brand of football within a melting pot of raw skills and showmanship. Though technicality may be limited, flair and personal expression of skills and talent are allowed to thrive.


The 2023-2024 season of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) is now in its fifteenth week with Remo Stars topping the standing. But the arenas of Nigeria’s flagship football remains abuzz.


Amao conducts NPFL maiden dope tests in Lagos, Benin



Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) on Thursday effectively joined the global campaign against doping in elite leagues with the testing of selected players at two different venues of the Matchday 15 fixtures.


Renowned anti-doping expert, Dr. Akinwunmi Amao, led a four-member team that administered tests on selected players of Sporting Lagos and Bayelsa United at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan in Lagos where both teams clashed.


Another team of sports medicine personnel handled a similar task in Benin City where Bendel Insurance hosted Abia Warriors.


He expressed delight at the integration of dope control in leagues in Africa as has been common in Europe.


His words: “Dope test in football has taken firm root in big professional leagues in quite a number of countries in Europe for more than a decade while recently it’s being integrated in the African football leagues.”


Chairman of the NPFL, Honourable Gbenga Elegbeleye in his reaction to the successful maiden tests, described it as “quite unprecedented and will be a permanent exercise in our league. We are implementing a zero tolerance for not just abuse of substance but its use by our players.”


Speaking to on the exercise, Amao harped on the essence of winning fairly in sports and commended the NPFL for taking steps to ensure that the league is cleansed from possible existence of substance abuse.


“Introduction of dope testing in NPFL matches is a good development in the right direction and it raises the level of compliance with international rules/regulations as well as the integrity of the league management and administration,” remarked the former Medical Director of the Sports Ministry.


Players and officials of the two teams in Lagos received commendation from the medical expert for their level of awareness of doping control and cooperation during the exercise.


“There was good cooperation from the selected players and teams’ officials. The level of awareness of doping control information among the players and their technical officials is substantially good and encouraging,” submitted the Chairman of the Scientific and Medical Commission of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC).


Pledging to support the NPFL and other sports agencies in creating awareness for the negative effects of doping, Amao said: “I will always be committed to the ‘fair play’ principle in football and other sports disciplines not only through dope testing but equally of more importance, the advocacy to create awareness of negative perspectives of doping through education and information strategy.”


Remo Stars burst atop summit before Christmas


Remo Stars Stadium, Akwa United's Godswill Akpabio nominated for 'Football Pitch Of The Year'Remo Stars Stadium nominated for Nigeria Pitch Awards’ Pitch of the Year


Remo Stars will go into Christmas as table-toppers in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) following their late show in seeing off fellow contenders Lobi Stars in one of Thursday’s fixtures, George Akpayen reports.


Playing in front of their fans at the Remo Stars Stadium in Ikenne, the Sky Blue Stars knew they needed a win of any kind – one goal or more than – to go top of the pile ahead of Doma United and Lobi Stars who have consistently stayed in the hunt for the top spot since the start of this season.


It was looking like Lobi Stars had fended off the attacking play of Remo Stars until the first minute into added time before full-time. Olamilekan Adams’ corner kick was met by Sikiru Alimi who directed it into the net.


Assured of a goal at the death and Lobi sensing the game was out of their hands as well as a top-two position now in jeopardy, they poured forward and were caught out. Five minutes after Alimi’s goal, Olamilekan also got on the scoresheet to put the star on the Christmas tree.


Remo Stars go top of NPFL one point clear of second-paced Doma United who are on 28 points while Lobi are in third with 26 points.


New boys Sporting Lagos also needed a late goal to save themselves from a first home loss at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan in Lagos against a spirited Bayelsa United. Joint NPFL leading scorer with 10 goals, Robert Mizo, got the former champions Bayelsa United in front on 24 minutes after timing his run well to beat the highline of Sporting’s defence before fortunately skipping past goalkeeper Christian Nwoke to score.


Sporting Lagos created enough chances but failed to make them count before substitute Salaudeen Aliu fired in the equalizer from way out on the stroke of full-time, but this was after Bayelsa United were reduced to 10 players following a red card to Kehinde Lawal on 72 minutes. Both teams remain in the bottom half of the standings with Bayelsa United holed up in the last four.



At the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna, Niger Tornadoes also left it late to edge past former champions Kano Pillars. Bashir Usman scored a beauty of a goal to ensure that Tornadoes earned the full points at the death. Kano Pillars finished the game with a man short after Mustapha Umar was sent off for a second bookable offence.


Kwara United were made to work at the Kwara State Stadium in Ilorin by Plateau United who got their noses in front on 20 minutes through in-form forward Albert Hilary. Fifteen minutes after that goal, Plateau United’s Yakubu Adams was sent off for a second booking, and that swung the advantage to the home side’s favour.


However, Kabiru Dogo’s men had to toil before they could unlock an organized Plateau United. Two goals in the final 20 minutes from Kabiru Balogun (76’) and Sadeeq Yusuf (84’) proved enough to win Kwara United the full points despite Yusuf being sent off for a second yellow card following the removal of his shirt in celebration of his winning goal.


Bendel Insurance and Gombe United claimed slim 1-0 wins over Abia Warriors and Katsina United respectively. Evans Ogbonda scored on seven minutes for Insurance while Mojeeb Odufeso came off the bench to help Gombe United claim the three points through a 76th-minute goal.


Things appear to remain the same at Akwa United despite the departure of their immediate head coach Fatai Osho during the week. Akwa United’s poor form continued as they played out a 0-0 draw at their Eket Stadium ground against Sunshine Stars. The Promise Keepers have won just twice in their last 10 league matches this season.


A day earlier, Doma United edged past Heartland through Nelson Abiam’s headed goal while the Oriental Derby in Aba between Enyimba and Rangers ended 1-1. Kazeem Ogunleye came off the bench to rescue a point for Rangers after Chijioke Mbaoma had fired Enyimba in front in the first half.


Late Ogunleye show earns Rangers point at Enyimba in derby



According to George Akpayen, Kazeem Ogunleye saved Rangers International from a sixth defeat of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season when he came off the bench to score a late goal to help claim a point off a 1-1 draw at Enyimba on Wednesday.


Title-holders Enyimba were favourites to earn the full points from the Oriental Derby as the Flying Antelopes have not won in their last 20 away meetings with their southeast rivals (D3 L17).


Enyimba head coach Finidi George made just a change to his previous matchday starters with Ini Edem taking the place of Chigozie Chilekwu who was not listed at all. Rangers head coach Fidelis Ilechukwu opted to leave Godwin Obaje and Chukwudi Nwaodu on the bench with Kenechukwu Agu and Ugochukwu Leonard starting.


The People’s Elephant got off the blocks quicker and within 10 minutes had the first sight of goal. Murphy Ndukwu threaded a through-pass to Chijioke Mbaoma who played largely off the shoulder of Rangers’ defence. The striker disappointingly aimed his left-footed attempt off target without making goalkeeper Detan Ogundare work.


Two minutes later, Mbaoma stole in around the near post to direct his header over Ogundare following good work from Chidiebere Nnachi whose low cross was deflected en route Mbaoma’s finish.


Mbaoma nearly doubled the lead for the home side but his headed attempt failed to find target after 26 minutes.


Three minutes afterwards, Daniel Daga and Joseph Atule combined to find target. Atule’s effort was however saved by Rangers goalkeeper Ogundare.


Just before the break, Rangers got an attempt on target through Kalu Nweke. Enyimba goalkeeper Olorunleke Ojo did enough to keep Nweke’s effort out to ensure his team took their lead into the break.


It turned out to be a game of two halves, as Rangers played more from the front than their rivals. Ilechukwu sent on Obaje and Austin Onyemaechi for Leonard and Kingsley Maduforo in the early moments of the second period. In between Enyimba goalkeeper Ojo had to deny Chidiebere Nwobodo from levelling the score.


Ugochukwu Ejike and Agu also took attempts at Enyimba’s goal but failed to get the desired outcome.


Ilechukwu then decided to yank off Agu for Ogunleye on 72 minutes. Ogunleye needed just 13 minutes to get his first attempt on target which Ojo pushed to safety.


On 87 minutes, Ojo could not keep out Ogunleye’s effort which resulted in the equalizer for Rangers. Daga dilly-dallied with the ball in front of Enyimba’s box and caught in possession by the hard-tackling Ejike. The ball fell kindly for Ogunleye who set himself up with his first touch and struck sweetly with his second, left-footed, to bring the score to 1-1 at the Enyimba Stadium in Aba.


In added time, Joel Odoh’s shot was kept out by Ojo as Rangers avoided defeat at Enyimba for the first time in the league since July 31, 2016 (2,699 calendar days).


Rangers approved to go back home


Rangers’ Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium home ground


Nigeria’s only yet-to-be-relegated football side, Rangers International have been approved to return to home to Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium ground, in Enugu.


The ‘Flying Antelopes’ have hitherto made Awka, Anambra State their home from home, and have played their home schedules of NPFL in there while their ground in Enugu was dubbed unfit for NPFL games in the 2022/23 season.


Extensive rehabilitation works at the NAS of including re-grassing of the turf, modernization of the dressing rooms and spectator stands have been concluded.



NPFL 2023/2024


At the end of he NPFL review of the arena following their most current reassessment of the arena on Rangers International’s asking, the controlling body has rescinded their decision to ban the ground.


To that effect, the NPFL’s Davidson Owumi, the organization’s Chief Operating Officer, has conveyed to Rangers the decision to approve the stadium for matches effective from Matchday 16.


Rangers are now billed to host their archenemy, Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) of Ibadan at the Coal City ground.

It also allows teeming fans of one of Nigeria’s oldest clubs to return to the team’s celebrated ground to see and support their popular club.


Doma Utd edge past Heartland to go top



Nelson Abiam scored the only goal of the game as Doma United beat Heartland 1-0 at the Pantami Stadium on Wednesday to lift them back to the top of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) standings, Ahmad Elnafaty reports.


Remo Stars climbed to the top of the NPFL table on Sunday, but have now been dislodged by Doma United who claimed a slim home victory over Heartland. The Savannah Tigers will however have to wait till the end of Thursday to know if they will remain top after the top-of-the-table clash involving Remo Stars and Lobi Stars.


The Savannah Tigers went for Heartland from the outset with Sani Sulaiman hitting the side-netting and Charles Terwer running through and forcing a low stop from Chisom Chiaha, before Hilary Ekawu curled shot needed an even better save from Chiaha.


The crowd egged on the home side with chants of ‘Sai Doma! Sai Doma!’ There was a reminder of the size of the threat at the other end when Chidiebere Ajoku had a chance in quick succession, which was saved by the superb Kingdom Osayi. It was the only shot Heartland had on target throughout the contest.


The Savannah Tigers defender Abiam showed impressive composure, out-jumped his marker inside the box before heading the ball past Heartland goalkeeper three minutes before the break. It changed the mood and put the onus squarely on Heartland to force the game.


The goal counted as his fourth goal of the season. Abiam had also scored against 3SC, Akwa United and Niger Tornadoes. He has been providing the goods when the team needed him most. It was left-back Andrew Majalisa who provided the assist for Abiam’s goal.


Injury to Terwer did not help. The star winger was forced off in the second half. Akinade Onigbinde’s team continued pushing after the interval, searching for the second goal, earning a series of free-kicks and corners to have nerves jangling for the supporters inside the Pantami, but created little of note.


There were questions asked about whether Doma United could keep up this surprise title charge. They silenced some doubters with the win against Kano Pillars, and a victory against arch-rivals (Gombe United) away from home is yet another test they have completed.


Akinade’s men only have to face Sunshine Stars left in the NPFL before the New Year, and the hope for them is that they remain top during and after festive period.


Top-two suffer defeats, as Plateau Utd hit five past Bayelsa Utd



The top-two sides in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) before the start of Matchweek 14, Remo Stars and Doma United were beaten by Kano Pillars and Lobi Stars respectively in their road trips on Sunday, George Akpayen reports.


Table-toppers Remo Stars succumbed 1-2 at Kano Pillars following an eventful second half display at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano. After a goalless first-half the home side got themselves in front through Ibrahim Mustapha Yuga on 50 minutes.


On 72 minutes, Dayo Ojo was in the right place at the right time to expertly finish from Olamilekan Adams’ cross from close range for Remo Stars to level the score. The goal for the away side last just seven minutes as Kano Pillars captain Rabiu Ali stole in behind the defence of the Sky Blue Stars to score a controlled volley past Kayode Bankole who was impressive all through the match.


Remo Stars remain top of the standings with superior goal difference. However, Doma United lost their second place to Lobi Stars who ran out 2-1 at the Lafia City Stadium.


Stanley Oganbor put Lobi in the lead as early as the fourth minute and held on till the 79th minute before securing the game off Suleiman Mojereoma’s goal. A very late goal by Samuel Enefiok in added time of 90 minutes proved insufficient for Doma United to take anything off Lobi.


Plateau United climbed into the top-four on the back of their convincing 5-1 success over Bayelsa United. Albert Hilary netted a hattrick on 22, 24 and 61 minutes of the contest while Silas Nenrot and Chimezie Izuchukwu scored the other goals on 67 and 89 minutes. Ekeson Okorie was the goalscorer for Ekeson Okorie.


Gombe United and Niger Tornadoes earned their first points on the road following draws at Sunshine Stars and Kwara United respectively. Tornadoes played out a 0-0 draw at Kwara United while Ahmed Jimoh scored on 77 minutes for Gombe United to secure a 1-1 draw at Sunshine Stars after Anietie Uko had put the Akure side ahead on 32 minutes.


Southeast clubs, Rangers, Abia Warriors and Heartland, sealed home wins over Sporting Lagos, 3SC and Akwa United respectively. Austin Onyemaechi and Kenechukwu Agu scored for Rangers to defeat Sporting Lagos while Heartland needed Chidiebere Ajoku’s goal edge past Akwa United 1-0 in a tight contest.


Warriors had to dig deep to fight off a dogged 3SC side 3-2. Anayor Ogbonna put 3SC ahead on 38 minutes before goals from Kelechi Nnochiri, Ifeanyi Anaemena and Samson Obi on 45, 58 and 81 minutes turned things around. In between those events, Abia Warriors goalkeeper Sharp Uzoigwe kept out Gbolagade Adelowo’s spot. Demola Kareem’s late goal for 3SC only left the scoreline respectable.


Chidera Eze scored the winning and only goal for Katsina United as they defeated Bendel Insurance 1-0 in Saturday’s only game.


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