Without a doubt, Sporting Lagos have made a grand entrance into Nigerian football and it’s amazing how they managed to secure promotion to the prestigious Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) from the Nigeria National League (NNL) in just a year.
This unexpected rise to the top has certainly caught the attention of football enthusiasts, sparking a newfound rivalry in the southwest region where oldies like 3SC, Remo Stars and the defunct MFM once held sway.
But Sporting’s astronomical rise didn’t stop with their promotion to the Nigerian topflight. In a span of two weeks, they not only gained promotion to the NPFL but emerged victorious in the maiden Naija Super 8 tournament.
Their victory was made memorable when they clinched the title as wildcards in front of a packed Mobolaji Johnson Arena. This triumph truly showcased their potential and set the stage for their journey in the NPFL.
Although some skeptics may have initially dismissed Sporting Lagos as a temporary phenomenon, they made a winning start to their NPFL campaign by defeating Gombe United 2-0 at home.
And even in their second match against Akwa United, they held their ground and secured a goalless draw to go top of the table with four points from two matches. This early success is a testament to the team’s determination and the leadership of their coach, Paul Offor.
Sporting Lagos’s rapid ascent in Nigerian football is truly remarkable and it will be exciting to see how they continue to make their mark in the NPFL they welcome ‘Desert Scorpions,’ another Gombe state based club to the Mobolaji Johnson Stadium in Lagos.
The clash on Sunday is going to be the first-ever between Sporting and Gombe United. While Gombe United have lost one and won one match to place eighth on the table, Sporting are brimming with confidence as they occupy the top of the table with four points from a win and a draw. It will also be interesting to see the battle of wits between the two coaches, Paul Offor and Mohammed BabaGanaru who belong to different generations. While Offor may be considered to be one of the new generation coaches in the NPFL, Ganaru no doubt belongs to the class of veterans.
Trust Sports, therefore, previews the remaining MatchDay three fixtures holding today and tomorrow across match venues.
Bendel Insurance vs Plateau United
Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, Benin will be host to the clash between these two teams once again. The home team had kicked off their campaign with a win over Shooting Stars while the visitors lost 2-1 to the same Shooting Stars in their league opener. The ‘Benin Arsenal’ have their home ground as a fortress after they defeated Plateau United 2-1 in the first round and drew 1-1 draw in the return leg last season with just five goals scored in both legs. So far this season, Bendel Insurance have the second best home record while Plateau United have the 8th best away record.
Sunshine Stars vs Heartland
It is too early in the season to determine relegation bound teams but Heartland FC will be desperate to get the first win of the season against hosts, Sunshine Stars at the Akure Township stadium. The ‘Naze Millionaires’ have had indifferent performances as they drew 2-2 with Lobi Stars before losing by a lone goal to Plateau United while the Akure Gunners defeated Kano Pillars 1-0 before losing 3-2 to Lobi Stars away in the first two games respectively. The last five meetings between both sides have ended squarely with two wins each and one draw with just nine goals scored. The home side have the 9th best home record so far while Heartland have the 14th best away record.
Katsina United vs Lobi Stars
Second-placed Lobi Stars visit Katsina United today at the 35,000 sitting capacity Muhammadu Dikko stadium in Katsina as they put pressure on Sporting Lagos. The 1999 champions who recently confirmed Eugene Agagbe as their new head coach have enjoyed a positive start to the current season. The ‘Pride of Benue’ won one and drew one from their opening two games while their hosts whose management board has been sacked following the team’s 1-0 loss to Kano Pillars Football Club in an northwest derby last weekend boast of the opening day win against Kwara United at home. Katsina United had returned to NPFL after one year of playing in the Nigeria National League (NNL). The previous five meetings have ended in three wins and two draws for Lobi Stars.
Enyimba vs Akwa United
The defending champions, Enyimba who are currently placed 20th on the table after one game which ended in a surprise 2-0 loss to Gombe United will attempt to return to winning ways when they host Akwa United at the Enyimba International stadium in Aba. The visitors had lost 5-3 to Bayelsa before drawing blanks with Sporting Lagos in week 2. The last five meetings between the duo have ended with two wins and two draws for Akwa United while Enyimba have a win. Enyimba are yet to lose at home to Akwa United.
Niger Tornadoes vs Enugu Rangers
Both teams have had similar performances so far. Each club has won one and lost one out of two matches played. Their last five meetings have been tight affairs with a win each and three draws. The last two encounters have ended in draws and this game at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna, Tornadoes’ adopted home promises to be full of fireworks. The home side who were given N500,000 by club chairman, Ibrahim Dada for their victory over Rivers United will be buoyed to get another win over the 7-time league winners.
Shooting Stars vs Gombe United
The ‘Oluyole Warriors’ suffered their first defeat in the current season at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium losing 2-1 to Bendel Insurance in week 2. The game saw right back, Ghali Falke scoring the season’s first own goal. The club’s acting General Manager, Dimeji Lawal, however, backs Falke to pick up from his mistake as the team prepares to host Gombe United at the Adamasingba stadium. 3SC have had an upper hand over Gombe United in the last five meetings with two wins against one. Shooting Stars victories have been at home and that will give the five-time league winners the confidence to return to winning ways.
Bayelsa United vs Remo Stars
The ‘Prosperity Boys’ suffered a 2-0 loss to Gombe United last weekend and are eager to get back to winning ways against Remo Stars at the Samson Siasia stadium. According to captain Edwin Ayiba, Bayelsa United haven’t lost any of their last 7 home matches and will want to keep that record against Remo Stars.
Rivers United vs Kwara United
The Former champions will play host to Kwara United who edged Remo Stars 2-0 in their rescheduled week 1 fixture at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium are seeking a second win of the season. Rivers United haven’t lost any of their last 6 home matches while Kwara United have lost their last 3 away matches.
Abia Warriors vs Kano Pillars
Abia Warriors haven’t lost any of their last 8 home matches and that will give them confidence going into the match against Kano Pillars who have lost their last 4 away matches at the Umuahia Township Stadium. Both sides are evenly matched with two wins each in their last five meetings.