Newly promoted Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) sides, Sporting Lagos, and Katsina United, produced resolute performances to defeat league 2023 league champions and runner-up, in their Naija Super 8 Group B encounters, at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Lagos, on Tuesday.
Katsina United defeated Enyimba International 2-1, while Sporting Lagos snatched a late 2-1 win over Remo Stars of Ikenne. The defeat ended Enyimba’s participation in the tournament, while Remo Stars’ hope of qualification hangs in the balance.
In the fierce South-West derby, Remo Stars asserted their authority on the game, and opened the scoring in the 17th minute through Frank Muawena. The Ikenne boys had two opportunities to double their lead within five minutes, but failed to make them count.
Few minutes later, they were punished. Saturday Okon received a brilliant pass behind Remo Stars defence, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into an empty net, to draw Sporting Lagos level in the 27th minute.
Isaac James came close to restoring Remo Stars’ lead with a looping header in the 61st minute. The striker had another opportunity in the 70th minute, but dragged his shot wide from close range. The NPFL runner-up mounted pressure on the Sporting Lagos goal, but were repelled by resolute defending and some brilliant goalkeeping.
Just as the game looked set for a draw, a long ball down the field caught Remo Stars’ defence napping. A clumsy challenge by Victor Collins in the box gifted Sporting Lagos a penalty in the 88th minute. Having missed a penalty in their previous match against Enyimba, Chiemeka Nwokeji managed to convert from a rebound, after his initial kick was saved by the goalkeeper. Sporting Lagos finished the match with ten men, after goalkeeper, Christian Nwoke, received his second yellow card for time wasting.
Reacting to the defeat, Remo Stars coach, Daniel Ogunmodede, lamented the loss of concentration that cost his team. He said: “We dominated the game. Every moment was ours. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take our chances. A little lack of concentration from our centerback allowing the ball to bounce in the box, led to the penalty. Kudos to Sporting Lagos, they didn’t want to lose and luckily they got the win.”
Commenting on the big victory, Sporting Lagos coach, Paul Offor said his team will not get carried away with the results they have achieved in the competition. “This competition is a great opportunity for us as a team that just qualified for the NPFL to play teams like league champions, Enyimba and runner-up, Remo Stars. Today, we played a team that didn’t allow us to play out from the back the way we like to do. So we suffered a lot coping with the press.
“We will have to work on this because this is the kind of opposition we will be facing every week in the league. We can’t get carried away with the results we’ve achieved against the two big teams. We have a lot of work to do. We could have lost, but somehow we are able to stay in the game to snatch the win,” he said.
With both side knowing a defeat is not an option, the first half between Katsina United and Enyimba produced little goal-mouth action. The second half started on an attacking note. Following a sweet counter attack, new signing, Ibrahim Yahya, produced a beautiful curling shot from the edge of the box to put Katsina United ahead in 53rd minute. Five minutes later, another counter attack by Katsina United led to a penalty, which was coolly dispatched by Nazifi Yahaya.
Enyimba pulled a goal back through a well-taken freekick by Fatai Abdullahi in the 89th minute, but Katsina United held on to secure their first win in the tournament.
An elated Katsina United coach, Usman Abdallah said “Enyimba came all out and we came all out. We had to win to stay in the competition and we got it. The boys did really well. This tournament is a good one for us. It gives exposure to our players. You can see how determined they are, knowing the world is watching them.”
Katsina United are top of the table on goal difference with four points from two games. Sporting Lagos are second with four points from two games. Remo Stars are third with four points from three matches, while Enyimba ammased just one point from their three games.
Action will continue in Group B on Wednesday when Lobi Stars take on Akwa United at 2pm and Rivers United face Yobe Desert Stars at 4:30pm.
Naija Super 8 is organised by Flykite Productions in partnership with MultiChoice Nigeria and sponsors, MTN, Hero Lager, DStv, GOtv, SuperSport, Moniepoint, Pepsi and Custodian Assurance.