After six weeks that produced only one away win in the NPFL this season, match week 7 produced two wins for visiting sides. Heartland continued their poor run, while Lobi and Rangers got statement wins. Here’s a review of the biggest talking point from the week.
Home Comfort On ‘Away Day’ For Doma
Not many would have thought the first-ever ‘jewel derby’ would end the way it did. After a barren first half in probably the noisiest atmosphere in the NPFL this season, three second-half goals for Doma United ensured they got the bragging rights over their city rival, Gombe United. Emmanuel Jesam scored a brace from two wonderful assists by goalkeeper Kingdom Osayi after Emmanuel Ekpeyong had opened the scoring. It was only chapter one of this derby in the top-flight but it already looks like a contest to look forward to in the second stanza.
For a team that many expected to struggle, the Savannah Tigers have started the season well. Two wins and a draw from their opening five games leaves them in 15th place, although they have two outstanding games. Their next three games are at the Pantami Stadium and that gives them a great chance to push up the table if they can rake in more wins.
Kingdoma Osayi provided two assists to set up Emmanuel Jesame who scored a brace against Gombe United! Watch as Jesam tore into Gombe United's defence for his second and third goals. #NPFL24 pic.twitter.com/Cky66RxYOU
— Doma United FC, Gombe 🐅 (@domaunitedfc) November 5, 2023
Remo Can Feel Hurt, But It Was The Right Call
The biggest talking point this week came from the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium where Bendel Insurance hosted Remo Stars. When these two meet, it’s usually more than three points at stake. Rivals since their days in the NNL, both teams have impressed since gaining promotion, with games between them always edgy. Sunday was no different in terms of the battle of the pitch, but the headliners were the officials.
When Ismail Sarki scored 25 minutes into the game for Insurance, you’d have thought we were headed for a repeat of last season’s 3-0 scoreline. However, Remo upped their play and threatened to get the equalizer. With 5 minutes to the end of the game, they thought they had gotten their wish. Jide Fatokun’s riffled a thunderous strike into the top corner and whisked away in celebration. But just as he made his way to his team’s dugout, he observed the chaos happening on the touchline. Assistant referee Sunday Azi had raised his flag for a foul throw but center referee, Imamu Malik was so focused on the attack, that he missed the flag. There was lengthy argument on the touchline but after consulting his assistant, referee Malik chopped off the goal.
Remo Stars goal disallowed in Benin.
Goal or Not?
Only the NFF Referees Committee and Nigeria Referees Association can explain what happened here.
— Adepoju Tobi Samuel 🇳🇬 (@OgaNlaMedia) November 5, 2023
At the stadium and online, people questioned the validity of the call by the ref but from the clips we have seen so far, it looks like the right outcome was reached. There was a foul throw in the build-up to the goal and the assistant had his flag up. We can only blame the center referee for not spotting him on time, but eventually, the right decision was reached.
The Champions Are Back To Winning Ways
After a tumultuous two weeks that saw Enyimba exhibit gross incompetence at the administrative level, rank as the worst team in the inaugural African Football League, and Finidi George pushing the blame of poor performance to his superiors, the 2023 champions finally had something to celebrate.
A narrow 1-0 win over Kwara United gave the Peoples’ Elephant their second win in eight games this season. It was only their fourth game in the league and the win took them out of the relegation zone. Now the 9-time champions can look to build on the result and maybe present a good title defense. But if what we’ve seen so far is anything to go by, I am not sure that can happen.
Ignore Lobi At Your Peril
For much of the preseason, the talks around a title push were centered around Remo, Enyimba, Rivers United, and even Sporting Lagos. Not sure I saw anyone talk about Lobi Stars in that light. Even those who did, those thoughts would have evaporated when Bala Mohammed left the team days before the season began.
But after seven match weeks, it is difficult to pick a more impressive side than the ‘yes father’ boys. Top of the table and superb so far, Eugene Agagbe is already repaying the faith shown by the management. Monday’s win over Bayelsa United was their first away win of the season, but they had managed draws in both Katsina and Owerri and only lost narrowly to Rivers United.
They are perfect at home with three wins and the coach believes he can achieve great things. “No one has given me any target but I have a target as a coach. My target is to come within the top three and get a continental ticket.” Well, a third-place finish might not be enough for a continental place, so maybe Lobi should just back themselves and go for gold.
Lokosa Answers Critics With A Bang
There’s nothing more dangerous than a proven marksman whose quality is being questioned. And that has been the case with Junior Lokosa this season. On Sunday, the 2018 NPFL topscorer highlighted a journalist who had called out his poor goal return for Sporting Lagos.
— Lokosa (@Lokosajunior29) November 5, 2023
To be fair to Mike, he isn’t the only one to have criticized Lokosa publicly. In fact, among Sporting fans, there are some who have called for him to be benched. But on Monday, Lokosa showed signs of why the club paid huge money for him.
Captain on the day, Lokosa scored twice against his former club Kano Pillars. His second was a rocket from the edge of the box that deserved wild celebrations but out of respect for his former employers, he suppressed his joy. That’s three goals in three games now for the 30-year-old who would hope that the good patch continues.
Sporting Lagos with an absolute rocket into the top right corner to make it 3-0! What a phenomenal finish!
— NPFLLive (@NPFL_Live) November 6, 2023