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Elegbeleye calls for best practices as NPFL hits last stretch

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Joel Ajayi


This Sunday, the first of the remaining six matchdays of the 2023/24 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season will hold and Chairman of the league board, Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye has called on the clubs and match Referees to stay true to the spirit and letters of football rules.


Elegbeleye, who commended the clubs for improved performances of their players as reflected in the quality of play and competitiveness of the matches, urged them to keep the league free of bad blood on and off the field.


“We have had a fairly great season with improvements in quality of play and standard of the teams. It is important that we complete the last six games devoid of controversy and unnecessary disputes capable of ridiculing the game in the eyes of the football World”, stated the NPFL Boss.


Turning to the Referees, Elegbeleye, who is also the 2nd Vice President of the NFF, warned against incompetence and bias in officiating matches.


“We witnessed overall fantastic officiating for most of the completed fixtures, and I want to commend the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA) for the good job their members did so far,” remarked the League chief.


“The NPFL and the NFF have shown from the start of the season that there is no place for poor officiating in the league and we are not relenting as the monitoring will be intensified and any one found wanting will be delisted swiftly”, he warned.


“We are looking at ways to reward outstanding Referees as a way of motivating our crop of Match officials and at the appropriate time, this will be unveiled”, promised the former National Assembly Chairman of the House Committee on Sports.


The season was paused after Matchday 32 to allow Rivers United complete backlog of games that accumulated due to their involvement in the CAF Confederation Cup. 


When the season resumes on Sunday, May 26, two of the fixtures in Umuahia and Jos would be broadcast live on Startimes while six in Umuahia, Kano, Katsina, Ilorin, Owerri and Jos will be on the NPFL_Live, the OTT live streaming platform powered by Propel Sports Africa.


Matchday 34 will hold on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday of June 1 & 2. Matchday 35 falls on June 8-9, while Matchday 36 is a midweek fixture of June 12. Matchday 37 will hold on June 16 while the NPFL will, in the days ahead, announce the date for the last matchday of the season.


Rangers International, Remo Stars, Enyimba International, and Shooting Stars Sports Club are the front-runners for the title.

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Rangers’ NPFL title triumph leaves others scraping for continent & survival

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Rangers International emerged champions of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) with one matchday to spare after they defeated Bendel Insurance 2-0 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium on Sunday.
The other three contenders for the title, Remo Stars, 3SC, and champions Enyimba, all dropped points in their respective matches, paving the way for the Flying Antelopes to win their eighth title in Nigeria’s top division.

A goal in each from Kenechukwu Agu and Chidiebere Nwobodo secured a 2-0 win over Bendel Insurance for Rangers to become champions.

However, the season still has the final matchday to navigate with two continental places up for grabs in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup.

CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE & CONFEDERATION CUP SPOTS

Remo Stars despite their 1-2 defeat to Sunshine Stars are in pole position to secure the second Champions League spot alongside Rangers. The Sky Blue Stars will play hosts to Katsina United and need an outright win to lay claim to that Champions League slot.

On their tails for the same spot are Enyimba and 3SC who are also in the hunt to finish second behind the champions. 
Jonathan Alukwu’s late goal for Sporting Lagos ended the chance of the People’s Elephant avoiding defeat or stretching the title race into the final match. Gbenga Ogunbote’s 3SC also fell to John Bassey’s late goal in Yenagoa as Bayelsa United gave themselves a fighting chance of beating the drop.

Despite their chances of claiming that second spot on the league table, Enyimba, 3SC, and Remo Stars are also in the running for the CAF Confederation Cup should they fail to win their final matches irrespective of results elsewhere.

One of Plateau United and Lobi Stars have outside chances of crashing the party and claiming the third position should the apple cart be upset on the final day of the campaign. Plateau United, however, would rue failing to defeat Kano Pillars on Saturday when they had the chance to do so. Playing with 10 men after Mustapha Salisu was sent off, Rabiu Ali scored for Pillars and Plateau United labored to a 1-1 draw at home after Sam Pam Jr leveled the score.

On the other hand, Lobi Stars had to shake off a tough-as-nail Kwara United side to win 4-3 thanks to Kumaga Suur’s late goal on 85 minutes. Lobi’s form of late makes them outsiders for a top-three finish as they play on the road at Kano Pillars on the final matchday.

SURVIVAL RACE

The final matchday will be interesting at the lower end of the table with eight clubs still yet to confirm their status for next season in the NPFL. Already Gombe United and Heartland have been relegated to the second tier, the Nigeria National League (NNL), but Sunshine Stars, Kano Pillars, Kwara United, and Niger Tornadoes are looking over their shoulders with the like of Bayelsa United, Akwa United, Sporting Lagos, and Doma United breathing down their necks.

Sporting Lagos and Doma United will begin the final matchday in the relegation zone. Doma United suffered a 2-0 defeat at Katsina United, leaving their goal difference looking unhealthy at -15, the worst among the sides battling for survival. Doma United will play hosts to Abia Warriors while Sporting Lagos face 3SC in a tough Southwest Derby at the Lekan Salami Stadium in Ibadan on the final day of the season.

Akwa United and Bayelsa United sit just above the drop zone after contrasting results on Matchday 37. The Promise Keepers fell to Sunday Megwo’s goals that sealed a 2-0 win for Abia Warriors while Bayelsa United left it late to see off 3SC 2-1 with Bassey scoring twice in the final 15 minutes. Akwa United have to face Rivers United at their Nest of Champions home ground in Uyo on the final day and Bayelsa United will make the trip to Benin City to play against Bendel Insurance who have just the points to play for.

Unless the final day throws up outrageous outcomes, the quartet of Sunshine Stars, Kano Pillars, Kwara United, and Niger Tornadoes need a point each from their final day matches to keep their places in the top flight for another season. Kano Pillars and Kwara United play at home against Lobi Stars and Heartland respectively while Tornadoes and Sunshine Stars go head-to-head.

As things stand, the outcomes of the penultimate match week have shaped a thrilling finale to the NPFL season.

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