Former African champions, Enyimba, won their ninth Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) title yesterday after they defeated title holders, Rivers United, following their 1-1 draw in the final match of the 2023 Championship Play-Off at the Mobolaji Johnson Stadium in Lagos.
The NPFL heavyweights went into the winner-takes-all contest on eight points each from four matches but at the end of regulation time, Enyimba toppled Rivers United on a superior goal difference.
Enyimba took the lead in the keenly contested match through Ekene Awazie who put them in front in the 39th minute but Rivers United’s talismanic striker, Nyima Nwagua, restored parity for his side in the 48th minute.
The Cup holders who knew the result would hurt their 2024 Champions League ambition did everything to get an outright win but the star-studded Enyimba held on to win the title they last won in 2019.
It was double jeopardy for the former champions, Rivers United, as Remo Stars who had piped Bendel Insurance 1-0 in the second match of the day leapfrogged them to finish in second place and secured the ticket to play in next year’s CAF Champions League.
Therefore, Rivers United who reached the quarterfinals of this year’s Confederation Cup when they dropped down from the Champions league, would return to the same competition in 2024.
Speaking after his team’s victory, the Technical Adviser of Enyimba, George Finidi, thanked the management of the club for keeping faith in him despite the less-than-satisfactory performance last season.
“This is a special day for me. I want to thank the players and the management for believing in me even though last season wasn’t a success.
“They believed in me and allowed me to stay and this is the result. It was difficult but I am happy we won,” said Finidi.
Meanwhile, in the first match of the day, Lobi Stars lost 1-3 to Sunshine Stars to finish the Championship Playoff without a win.
The victory also lifted Sunshine Stars to fourth on the table as Insurance, who lost 0-1 to Remo Stars dropped to fifth position.
Therefore, Enyimba and Remo Stars will represent Nigeria in next year’s Champions League while third-placed Rivers United will feature in the Confederation Cup next season.
For winning the 2023 title, Enyimba took home N100m prize money, the highest in the history of Nigerian football.