234football NPFL Team of Matchday 31: Brace scorers Nwankwo, Kalu get nod
By Akila Matawal
Sunshine Stars reignited their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Nigeria Professional Football League following a shock 1-0 win at Heartland and, understandably, Owena Whales gaffer Deji Ayeni, gets our honours.
Enyimba, for the first time in the League Management Company era, failed to record a win in three consecutive home matches, as they came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with neighbors Rivers United.
Monday’s tie between Nasarawa United and Jigawa Golden Stars, which ended 3-1 in favour of the Solid Miners, wapped up the matchweek, and it is time for us to put together our team of the week.
The outfield players line up in a 4-3-3 formation.
Adewale Adeyinka (Akwa United)
Adewale Adeyinka pulled off a string of brilliant saves to help his title-chasing Akwa United side earn a vital point at Plateau United.
Chigozie Obasi (Nasarawa United)
Nasarawa United beat bottom-four side Jigawa Golden Stars 3-1 on Monday. Solid Miners defender Chigozie Obasi — a surprise exclusion from Nigeria’s squad for last Sunday’s friendly against Mexico — was outstanding against the Dutse club.
Bakary Bamba (Rivers United)
Malachi Ohawume’s first-half goal gave Rivers United the lead in Aba against Enyimba, but Fatai Osho’s men clawed back to earn a point through Sadiq Abubakar’s 48th-minute strike. Rivers United’s Bakary Bamba impressed at left-back.
Charles Okafor (Akwa United)
Olisa Ndah and Samson Gbadebo are Kennedy Boboye’s first-choice centre-back pairing. However, ex-Ifeanyi Ubah defender Charles Okafor has started in all of the Promise Keepers’ matches since the 2-2 draw at Wikki Tourists on June 6. With Gbadebo injured, the 22-year-old — rarely given minutes in the first half of the season — was handed a starting role against the Bauchi side. A few weeks later, though, it looked like his place was going to be threatened as Gbadebo recovered. However, the absence of Ndah due to National Team duties helped him keep his starting role.
Against Plateau United on Sunday, Okafor started alongside Gbadebo but the latter was later replaced by Wilson Elu after picking a knock. Despite playing with Elu for the first time, Okafor looked composed and helped his side keep the Peace Boys at bay.
Kehinde Adeyemi (Sunshine Stars)
Sunshine Stars secured a surprise 1-0 win at Heartland thanks to Ifegwu Ojukwu’s strike just before the hour mark. Heartland threatened often but the Akure side’s defence dealt with the threats quite well.
Kehinde Adeyemi, in particular, was excellent in the Owena Whales’ back.
Tamara Ezekiel (Kano Pillars)
Now a key player for Kano Pillars, Tamara Ezekiel was solid in defensive midfield as the Kano outfit trounced Lobi Stars 3-0 to move to within two points of leaders Akwa United.
Ojukwu Ifegwu (Sunshine Stars)
Versatile forward who can play perfectly as an attacking midfielder, Ojukwu Ifegwu scored the goal that made the difference for Sunshine Stars in their 1-0 win over Heartland at Wetheral Road.
Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars)
Evergreen midfielder Rabiu Ali was on the scoresheet for Pillars in their 3-0 win over Lobi Stars. Aside the goal, he was a delight in midfield.
Wale Farayiola (Kwara United)
Wale Farayiola came off the bench to get one of Kwara United’s goals in their 2-0 win over Rangers in Illorin. What a sub!
Silas Nwankwo (Nasarawa United)
Almost unknown before the start of the season, Silas Nwankwo bagged a brace in Nasarawa United’s 3-1 win over Jigawa Golden Stars, which took his season’s tally to 13. He now sits top of the goalscorers chat.
Samuel Kalu (Katsina United)
Another breakout star of the season, Samuel Kalu found the back of the net twice as Katsina United humbled FC Ifeanyi Ubah 3-0 in Katsina on Sunday.