Mountain of Fire & Miracles Ministries (MFM) Football Club of Lagos and Plateau United produced the major talking points of the opening day of the 2019/2020 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season.
The team, formerly managed by Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu, travelled to Okigwe to deliver a strong message of intent on their aspiration this season as they stunned Heartland FC 0-1 to record the first away victory of the season.
On August 5, 2019, Coach Ilechukwu was officially unveiled as the new coach of Heartland FC after spending 13 progressive years at MFM FC. It was arguably the pragmatic coach who stabilised the team when they gained promotion to the NPFL in 2016 and when some of the boys he tutored visited Okigwe, they showed him some of the skills he taught them.
It was actually Clement Ogwu, a player signed by coach Ilechukwu last season from an unknown Glorious Day Academy that headed home the game’s only goal in the 39th minute from a corner kick by right back Adeyinka Najeem.
After the match, MFM FC head coach, Tony Bolus was full of praise for his team.
“I need to appreciate the boys for their effort today, for keeping and playing to instructions. They maintained the tempo of the game from the beginning until the end.”
If Ogwu had scored that goal last season, Ilechukwu, also referred to as the “Working One” would have given the fans his trademark energetic celebration, lifting his hands to the heavens and punching the ground. But there was nothing to celebrate on matchday one with his new team and he will be hoping for a turnaround on matchday 2 when the Naze Millionaires go against Rivers United at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt.
At the New Jos Stadium, Plateau United cruised to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Lobi Stars to put behind the disappointment of last season’s opening day clash with Ifeanyi Ubah.
The stadium had a fairly good number of spectators which include a former governor, Jonah Jang cheering the team all the way. Nerot Silas didn’t take long to reward the fans loyalty as he scored the opener in the 12th minute. In the 27th minute, an own-goal by Solomon Kwambe doubled the lead for the hosts.
But Lobi Stars will not go down without a fight. They kept pushing and in the 32nd minute, they were awarded a penalty. Sikiru Alimi stepped up to it and converted to keep hopes alive. But the hopes were dashed when winger, Amo Gyang Danladi finished a fine move to seal victory and also shoot the 2017 league champions to the top of the league table after matchday one.
After the match, Coach Abdul Maikaba said the victory is a good relief from what happened on the opening day of last season.
“Last season, we struggled and it started with the first match with Ifeanyi Ubah FC. We drew here and it caused a lot of confusion and put a lot of pressure on the team. Before we recovered in an abridged league, it became so difficult. We escaped relegation by a whisker and so, this time around, starting with another home game, we had to start well. We told the boys not to repeat last season’s error and to get a win that will put us on top of the league table,” a happy Maikaba said.
In Kano, former league champions Kano Pillars felt the absence of their home fans as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Rivers United at the Sani Abacha Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors because of a ban placed on Pillars due to unacceptable fans behaviour during the Super Six tournament in Lagos last season.
In Gombe, Wikki Tourists of Bauchi were the only team that produced a comeback victory on matchday one. They defeated newly promoted Jigawa Golden Stars 2-1 at their adopted home ground.
15 minutes into the match, Lala Abdullahi gave Jigawa a shock lead at the Pantami Stadium but two second-half goals from Saidu Abubakar and captain Mohammed Idris Guda gave coach Ibrahim Garba’s team the maximum points.
At the Umuahia Township Stadium, Abia Warriors also got off to a winning start with a 2-0 victory over Katsina United. Former Heartland FC player, Jimoh Oni’s brace did all the magic.
Oni’s first goal came as early the 8th minute, when he drilled a free-kick from 20 yards beyond Mustapha Aliko and followed up two minutes into the second half with another goal assisted by Phillip Auta.
Emmanuel Deutsche’s team will hope to sustain the momentum when they clash with Akwa United on matchday 2 of the league at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.
In Nnewi, FC Ifeanyiubah edged newly promoted Adamawa United 1-0 courtesy of a superb strike by Samuel Kalu minutes to the end of the first half. It would have been more for the Anambra Warriors but Striker Chibuike Ezeh failed to convert a second-half penalty which could have widened the scoreline for the Anambra Warriors.
Matchday one also witnessed a double-header clash between Delta and Akwa-Ibom states. Delta Force hosted NPFL debutants, formerly Akwa Starlets, now Dakkada FC in Asaba while Warri Wolves hosted Akwa United at the Warri Township Stadium.
In both games, the teams shared the spoils.
In Warri, Samuel Amadi scored the fastest goal of the new season when his strike gave Wolves the lead with just two minutes into the match. Captain of the Promise Keepers, Mfon Udoh continued from where he left off last season to restore parity for John Obuh’s team.
At the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Isaac George scored in the 50th minute to give Dakkada FC the lead but the experienced Bala Yahuza rescued a point for the home side.
Enyimba vs Nasarawa United and Rangers vs Sunshine Stars were rescheduled due to Enyimba and Rangers’ CAF Confederation Cup engagements on Sunday.
2019/2020 NPFL Matchday 1 Results
Heartland 0-1 MFM FC
Plateau United 3-1 Lobi Stars
Kano Pillars 0-0 River United
Wikki Tourists 2-1 Jigawa Golden Stars
Abia Warriors 2-0 Katsina United
FC Ifeanyiubah 1-0 Adamawa United
Warri Wolves 1-1 Akwa United
Delta Force 1-1 Akwa Starlets