Former CAF Champions League winners, Enyimba, moved into the summit of the Glo Premier League, NPL, for the first time this season after forcing southeast neighbours, Rangers, to a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Pre-match analysis favoured Enyimba to complete the double on Rangers due to their impressive run in the top division this season so far, and the fact that they had made stellar additions to their intimidating squad.
Enyimba coach, Kadiri Ikhana, gave mid-season signing, Musa Najere, his debut in the blue colours of the club while record league goalscorer, Mfon Udoh, returned to the match day squad for the first time since May.
Coach of Rangers, Imama Amapakabo, also surprisingly gave out-of-favour Super Eagles goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim the nod ahead of Itodo Akor in the startlist.
Rangers made the first impression as Onoriode Odah should have given them the lead but Enyimba keeper Femi Thomas went down well to make a one-handed save from a one-on-one situation.
But Odah made amends for his earlier miss by scooping a header over Thomas for the opening goal just nine minutes after kick-off. It was 1-0 to Rangers with Enyimba faithful stunned into silence.
It took the Peoples Elephant 28 minutes to restore parity. A well-planned move by Enyimba around the box freed Markson Ojobo on the right, who squared into the near post for Najere to convert unmarked past Agbim to put the score at 1-1.
That was the much the game produced in terms of goals as the two teams shared the points. Enyimba have now opened a point lead at the top of the league table having earned 37 points while Rangers stay rooted in 10th place with 28 points.
Leaders before Match Day 20, Sunshine Stars, dropped to second place after suffering a shock one-nil defeat at FC Taraba. Stephen Adah scored from a rebound just before half time after Ibrahim Sanusi’s penalty kick struck the woodwork and bounced into play for the striker to tap home.
Another team in the top-four, Wikki, also failed to win by playing out a goalless draw with Heartland. Wikki are now third while Heartland remain in fifth place.
Giwa FC eased past Kwara United by a lone goal in Jos through Charles Henlong’s second half goal. The win takes the Jos-based club to fourth position with 34 points.
League defending champions, Kano Pillars, edged Lobi Stars 2-1 to give their new coach, Mohammed Baba Ganaru a welcome win. Rabiu Ali and Shehu Shagari scored for Pillars in the opening 35 minutes before Tony Okpotu netted Lobi’s goal three minutes into the second half. Pillars have climbed into seventh place but Lobi have now dropped into the bottom-four.
Shooting Stars held out well at El-Kanemi for 65 minutes before succumbing to Abraham Audu’s goal that proved to be the winner for the Maiduguri club.
Two other matches ended in score draws of 1-1. FC Ifeanyiubah held Abia Warriors in a derby while Akwa United had to wait until added time to see Aniekpeno Udoh’s goal cancel Bayelsa United’s lead.