Nigeria National League (NNL) side, Katsina United and Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side, Rivers United have clinched the last two slots in the Naija Super 8 finals, after securing victories in their zonal play-off matches on Sunday.
Katsina United defeated Kano Pillars 1-0 in the battle for the North-West ticket, while Rivers United beat Bendel Insurance 3-2 to nicked the ticket for the South-South geo-political zone at the Eket Township Stadium on Sunday.
United and Pillars fought a long-drawn battle until Samson Souley beat a poorly set offside trap and kept his composure to find the net. In the goalless first half, Pillars fashioned the first chance in the ninth minute, United’s Kolimba Alladoom stood up to Pillars’ Kokoette Udoh.
United responded shortly after when on 17 minutes, Yahaya Nazifi produced a decent half-volley that drew a brilliant save from Joshua Enaholo in Pillars’ goal. Veteran midfielder, Rabiu Ali, hit a long-range freekick in the 27th minute, which was well handled by Enaholo.
Ten minutes later, Ali drew another save from the goalkeeper with a rocket shot from 35 metres. United continued to look the more dangerous side at the break as well as in the second half, which saw them fashion the first big chance of the match in the 63rd minute, but Souley somehow missed an open goal from six yards. Four minutes later, Emmanuel Junior hit the upright with a long range shot, as United mounted the pressure, which eventually yielded a dividend in the 84th minute to break Pillars.
In the following five-goal thriller, the 2022 NPFL champions took the lead against the 2023 FA Cup winners in the 10th minute, through Albert Korvah. Monghara Dede drew Insurance level from the penalty spot in the 45th minute.
Korvah restored Rivers United’s lead early in the second half, tapping home from close range in the 50th minute, after a smooth passing move cut the Bendel Insurance defence open. Rivers United had good opportunities to extend their lead in the 56th and 61st minutes, but failed to make them count.
Ten minutes later, substitute, Okon Ini-Obong restored parity with a sumptuous volley from the edge of the box. Just as the match looked set for penalties, Rivers United were gifted a late penalty in the 90th minute after a clumsy challenge in the box by Daniel Ogungbe. Morice Chukwu converted the penalty to seal the victory.
The six zonal champions, Katsina United, Lobi Stars, Enyimba, Remo Stars, Yobe Desert Stars and Rivers United will be joined by two wildcard teams to be picked by the tournament organisers.
Draws for the Naija Super 8 finals will be held on 29 June, live on SuperSport, while the tournament will be held at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos from 7-16 July. 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.