Matchweek One down out of 38 in the Nigeria Professional Football League 2021/2022 season and we’ve already had some stellar action, with the league’s elite making some real statements, both good and bad. This is all while not one draw was registered across the 10 opening matchday fixtures—6 wins, 6 draws and 8 losses which are not for a start.
Akwa United and Kwara United rolled Kano Pillars and Dakkada 3-0 respectively and Lobi Stars and Heartland drew at home to Rivers United and Nasarawa United. Enyimba and Abia Warriors did not disappoint their teaming fans with the eight times ran away with a 2-1, while Rangers International broke the back of Katsina United at the Mohammadu Dikko Stadium for the first time since the Changi got the promotion to the elite league six years ago.
And then there’s Remo Stars S.C. The official opener for the NPFL season was a thrilling 2-0 win against MFM FC Lagos at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in the Southern part of Lagos and finally Niger Tornadoes beat 2017 champions Plateau United at their adopted home ground in Ilorin. The Ikon Allah boys since returning back to the NPFL after two seasons. The emotional and deserved victory for the home side and the disappointing start to the season for Fidelis Ilechukwu’s men was a sight to behold.
Matchweek 2 offers a solid slate of fixtures, headlined by an important second match for Fidelis Ilechukwu side against Abdullahi Biffo’s side against a more offensive Kwara United squad who last season ran away with a 2-1 victory from Jos. Hate to say make or break this early, but Plateau United needs a result in this one.
Let us start with Boxing day’s (Sunday) match at the Jos International Stadium.
Plateau United vs. Kwara United
It wasn’t that Plateau United was outmatched against Niger Tornadoes in matchweek one of the Nigeria Professional Football League last weekend—that’s a bit silly to type. But the team just never felt that invested in coming away from a noisy and emotional Niger Tornadoes fans at the Ilorin Township Stadium with a goal defeat. Obviously, player availability was an issue. Reuben Bala was out of the lineup because of injury, but the Tin city side will be hoping that the former Enyimba forward will be available this Sunday.
The 2017 Champions have one of the most expensive teams in the NPFL and have lofty aspirations for the upcoming season, with dominance over two of regional rivals Nasarawa United and Wikki Tourists being a priority.
Plateau United will have to prevent the shock defeat of last season by Kwara United not to repeat itself this weekend, a Sunday-evening win will see Fidelis Ilechukwu’s men reignite their title ambition this season, but a defeat at home against Kwara United looks the only scenario for Plateau United, though it will be able to regroup and refocus entering a Matchweek 3 contest with *checks notes* MFM FC.
Prediction: Plateau United 2, Kwara United 1
Shooting Stars vs. Akwa United
Edith Agoye first challenge is here, and it should be a decent and challenging match. Shooting Stars drew their opener at the Pantami Stadium for the first time since 2017.
This match, however, will see Kennedy Boboye’s men in the new refurbished Lekan Salami Stadium, Afamasingba. The drama! We all know about Shooting Stars dominance, but things have change since their last premier league encounter between the two teams, so there is likely a first home win for the Oluyole Warriors having won more games against Akwa United. Regardless, both sides will want to prove themselves as the attention of both sets of supporters will be on Edith Agoye and Kennedy Boboye as both coaches will be passing instruction in the technical area.
Against Gombe United, Shooting Stars came to to the Pantami Stadium with a well-perfected plan against their fellow NPFL returnee, right from the kick off which resulted in the Oluyole Warriors receiving five yellow and one matching order of one red. Three attempts on target out of 17 shots. And what did they have to show for it? A lot of nothing, as both teams were blanked on the scoresheet and bludgeoned by some Grade A trolling from Gombe United.
They’ll need to be much quicker and more precise in front of the goal against the reigning champions Akwa United, who demolished Kano Pillars 3-0 with Ubong Friday capped a memorable afternoon for the champions, displacing his former teammate Bassey for the third in the first minute of added time. Assist by John Lazarus.
Once again, Akwa United started off bright with former Enyimba forward Ezekiel Bassey who completed his move Egyptian outfit Petrojet was the centre of attraction with a superlative performance, There’s no reason to think the new attacking force of Akwa United, with 2020-21 being the Uyo based side best campaign to date (19 wins, 14 draw and 5 losses with 53 goals).
If Kennedy Boboye and Co. can work attacking their attacking forward into the mix and alter the team away from being built around one hulking target forward with quick feet, they should cause most teams in the league problems in the attacking third. This match should be no exception.
It will be tough for the home side against a motivated set of visitors from the capital. Hard to see anything but an Akwa United win or draw here.
Prediction: Shooting Stars 1, Akwa United 1 – Shooting Stars 2-0 Akwa United
Wikki Tourists vs. Niger Tornadoes
After indefinite reschedule of their matchweek one against Sunshine Stars, Wikki Tourists will have to come out smoking to face a well prepared Niger Tornadoes as the Yankari Elephants kick off their campaign and should be an interesting one under the mix haze weather of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium on Sunday evening. Niger Tornadoes started the season with a win over Plateau United. Wikki Tourists outlasted the visitors in their preseason tour of Bauchi during the offseason warmup match. Wikki Tourists and Sunshine are yet to kick-off there due to some transfer ban on Wikki Tourists
Finishing 15th last season Wikki Tourists were busy during off the season transfer windows with a max exodus of almost 4 Nasarawa United regulars including Okoro Victor Oneyka, goalkeeper Danjuma Muhammed. An early-season contest between the pair will be an interesting one and will give us a good idea of where they are both headed and the levels at which the clubs are punching at.
Niger Tornadoes has entered the season as strongly as it has since its return to the Premier League during the 2020-2021 Nigeria Second division playoffs. There have been no major departures and a host of fresh talent (Martin Usule, Abiodun “Agbara” Adebayo from Enyimba, Destiny Ashadi from Rivers United and Mohammed Ekpoma) has arrived for manager Abubakar Mohammed Bala to work with. Yet in the opening-match win against the 2017 champions Plateau United, it was the dependable core of Usule Martins, Sunday Akinmoladun and Destiny Ashadi keeping the Ikon Allah boys on track.
Given the strong starts from Niger Tornadoes and with their previous preseason engagement, both sides level playing field on the talent front, a draw is feasible between these two hungry squads.
Prediction: Wikki Tourists 1, Niger Tornadoes 1
Abia Warriors vs. Sunshine Stars
After a close battle against Enyimba in the opening week, Abia Warriors will now face Sunshine Stars at home. Sunshine Stars is yet to have a taste of the NPFL in the opening matchweek one game due to somewhat I will call technical fracture and lack of communication between the league organisers and Wikki Tourists who quickly settle their transfer ban by FIFA
Abia Warriors drew their first nine matches both at home and away, this game could be a good fixture for both teams, but most likely Abia Warriors to be comfortable against. This will give chance for the team to gain a good amount of momentum going forward in the league after a disappointing start against the Aba Elephants.
Sunshine Stars was able to rotate their players, settling some backlog of salaries of their present and former players. A possible win for Abia Warriors coming from a defeat in their first match of the new season.
Prediction: Abia Warriors 2, Sunshine Stars 0
Rangers International vs Enyimba FC
This is oriental derby season one episode two of 2021/2022 Nigeria Professional Football League season will involve two of the biggest club in the Nigeria Domestic League scene. Rangers Internationals were and Enyimba exceptional in their first league match against Katsina United at the Mohammadu Dikko Stadium and Abia Warriors at the Enyimba arena last weekend respectively.
Rangers Internationals has been looking in immense form since the start of preseason they managed to win some couple warmup games, while Enyimba were also busy on the continent with a 2-0 spanking of Al Ittihad at their fortress, but only abandon the 2nd leg due to some lack communication between the two clubs.
They will be looking for a top 5 finish once again this season and to do that they will have to be consistent with their winning. Rangers International have been missing on the continental stage since 2016 when they won the NPFL title after 36 years. This fixture is going to be one of the most competitive fixtures throughout the weekend.
Rivers United vs Katsina United
After a close battle against Lobi Stars at the Aper Aku Stadium which ended 1-1 in the opening week, Rivers United will now face depleted Katsina United at the Adokiye Amasiamaka Stadium, Port Harcourt. The big question is; will Katsina United redeem themselves away from home? Katsina United lost their first game at home for the first time since their promotion to the NPFL in 2016 against Rangers international at the Mohammadu Dikko Stadium.
However, we believe that Katsina United will learn from their mistake and get back against Rivers United in the second match week of the NPFL. But Stanley Eguma’s side should be able to grab 3 points against the Changi boys.
Prediction: Rivers United 2-0 Katsina United
Remo Stars vs Heartland
Remo Stars looked energised in the 2-0 win away against MFM FC in the opening matchweek one of the seasons, Gbenga Ogunbote’s impact is proved by notable positive thinking, his players have improved immensely, since the tactician took over, while Heartland were forced to play a 3-3 draw with hard fighting Nasarawa United their first game against at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, they will a more organized and youthful Remo Stars this Sunday at the Remo Stars Stadium complex in Ikenne Remo.
Remo Stars is regarded is one of the established teams in terms of organization and player recruitment, over 90% of the current came from the youths teams, Akanni Qudus started with the team youth system, no doubt the team have what it takes to take the challenge. On the other hand, there was a mass exodus of Heartland who will be hoping to have a good compact team as the government of Imo as assured a full backing to the team.
Dakkada vs MFM
A Sunday-evening defeat at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena against hew breeds Remo Stars looks the only scenario for the Olukoya boys, though it will be able to regroup and refocus entering a Matchweek 2 contest with *checks notes* Dakkada.
MFM has never lost an opening day match since their NPFL debut in the 2015/2016 season, they defeat Nasarawa United in 2-1 at the Aper Aku in their debut. It was the new breeds that shocked them in Lagos. Likewise, their host Dakkada also suffered a battered 3-0 defeat against Kwara United in their opening day match as well in Ilorin.
Both teams will need to be much quicker and more precise in front of goals against each other, which will be buoyed by its exuberant performance against themselves this Sunday despite a shocking shock defeat against Kwara United and Remo Stars respectively.
Prediction: It is hard to say, but a likely win for Dakkada as they will be hoping to get back to their form
Prediction: Dakkada 1-0 MFM
Nasarawa United vs Gombe United
The solid Miners were hot knife through butter in the opening day match against Heartland, but Heartland make sure they did everything to share the maximum after taking their own pound of flesh which ended in a 3-3 draw at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri last weekend.
Gombe United were also forced to a draw 0-0 at the Pantami Stadium by one of the oldest sports clubs in Nigeria Shooting Stars in their first outing this season
Nasarawa United suffered mass-exodus for their regulars during the offseason transfer window with the likes of goalkeeper Galadima Mohammed, Victor Onyeka Okoro Tebo Franklin and Silas Nwankwo left the club, which makes it for Bala Nkiyu to fetch new talent.
New signing Otegbeye Ajibola was the centre of attraction against Heartland, the attacking forward scored two goals with an assist, the Ibadan born will be the main attacking force for the solid miners this season. There’s no reason to think Nasarawa United won’t be up to the task with 2020-21 being one of their best campaigns in all competitions only to lose concentration towards the end of the campaign was a disappointment to most of their fans, however, Gombe United faced a similar exodus of their player last season, with the Chidera Eze and Musa Najere to bolster their squad as they make a return to the NPFL.
It will be tough for the home side against a motivated set of visitors from the Savannah North East. Hard to see anything but a Nasarawa United win here.
Prediction: Nasarawa United 2-0 Gombe United