Church owned side, Mountain of Fire & Miracles Ministries (MFM) FC produced the opening shock of the 2019/20 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season when they claimed a 0-1 away win at Heartland FC in Okigwe. But that would not diminish Plateau United’s impressive 3-1 win over Lobi Stars in a fixture that had a former Governor of Plateau State on the stands cheering the Jos side.
MFM FC had struggled for the most part of the pre-season after the loss of their enigmatic head coach Fidelis Ilechukwu to Sunday’s opponent but the Lagos based side pulled the chestnut out of the fire in stunning fashion against their former boss.
Clement Ogwu, a player signed by Ilechukwu for MFM last season from little known Glorious Day Academy headed home the game’s only goal on the 39th minute from a corner kick by right back Adeyinka Najeem. The goal indeed tore the form guide into shreds as all three previous NPFL encounters involving both sides had ended in home wins.
It was a double-header clash between Delta and Akwa-Ibom states on Sunday with Delta Force hosting NPFL debutants Akwa Starlets in Asaba while Warri Wolves, on their return to the big league hosted Akwa United at the Warri Township Stadium.
Both games ended in entertaining 1-1 draws. Samuel Amadi scored the first goal of the new season as his 2nd minute strike gave Wolves the lead but last season’s joint topscorer Mfon Udoh continued from where he left off on the 28th minute to restore parity for John Obuh’s Akwa United. Neither side could find a winner in the second half.
At the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Starlets stunned their hosts on the 50th minute when Isaac George gave them the lead but experienced substitute Bala Yahuza rescued a point for Mangut Mbwas’ side twenty minutes from time.
Plateau United laid down the marker for the new season with an emphatic 3-1 dispatch of Lobi Stars in a North Central Derby at the New Jos City Stadium on Sunday. Abdu Maikaba’s United raced to a two-goal lead courtesy of Nerot Silas’ 17th minute strike and a Solomon Kwambe own-goal but Lobi halfed the deficit on the 32nd minute through a Sikiru Alimi penalty.
Winger Amos Gyang Danladi however scored his side’s third on the 67th minute to send the 2017 league winners to the summit of the league table after Match Day One.
Abia Warriors also started the season on a bright note when a brace by former Heartland star Jimoh Oni earned them a routine 2-0 win over Katsina United at the Umuahia Township stadium.
In Nnewi, FC Ifeanyiubah edged newly promoted Adamawa United 1-0 courtesy of a spectacular strike by Samuel Kalu. Striker Chibuike Ezeh also missed a second half penalty which could have widened the scoreline for the Anambra Warriors.
Wikki Tourists of Bauchi were the only team that came from a goal down to win on Sunday, a feat they achieved in their 2-1 success over newly promoted Jigawa Golden Stars at their adopted home ground in Gombe.
Lala Abdullahi gave Jigawa a shock lead at the Pantami Stadium on the quarter hour mark but two second half goals from Saidu Abubakar and team captain Mohammed Idris Guda gave Ibrahim Garba’s men the maximum points.
In Kano, former champions Kano Pillars were held to a 0-0 draw by Rivers United at the Sani Abacha Stadium. The game which was played behind closed doors as Pillars continue to serve punishment from their fans’ behaviour in Lagos at the end of last season saw the Sai Masu Gida side miss a number of scoring chances.
Two other games; Enyimba vs Nasarawa United and Rangers vs Sunshine Stars were rescheduled due to Enyimba and Rangers’ CAF Confederation Cup games on Sunday. The two former champions won their respective games and booked their places in the group stage of the continental competition.