With the 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football League season drawn to a close last week, Idris Adesina takes a look at some highlights of the season
The 2016/17 season of the Nigeria Professional Football League came to a climax on Saturday with different tales for different clubs in the topflight division.
Plateau United comfortably secured their first ever league triumph with a 2-0 victory over 2015/2016 champions Enugu Rangers in Jos, while other positions of note were claimed by clubs in pole position to do so before the final day round of matches.
Plateau’s emergence as champions came as a surprise to many pundits but former Nigeria international Joseph Dosu, said it showed a positive development in the league.
“The season was a successful one going by the fact that it threw up a lot of surprises. The traditional title winning teams struggled while teams, who weren’t given chances at all, proved their critics otherwise,” he said.
“Plateau’s emergence as champions showed that the league was fairly contested and everyone wants to protect their home turf against defeat. But going forward, the League Management Company, who did well in administering the league, would have noted many more areas to work on.”
Retired league star, Victor Ezeji, said the winners deserved the title.
He said, “For Plateau to win the league for a first time showed that they can prove their mettle anywhere. But I hope they strengthen the team for effective performance on the continent. The team had fighters rather than players and they fought till the last day. MFM also tried and they should improve on their away form ahead of next season.
“The pitches also need a lot of improvement especially for teams going for continental competitions. In all, the season was a good one except for the pockets of violence, and the LMC tried to punish the offenders.”
A league season with 380 matches always comes with lots of exciting, amazing and even exhilarating moments. Here are some of these moments from the out-gone season.
Plateau’s first title
From the first day of the season, Plateau, who are coached by former international, Kennedy Boboye, had shown their intent to win the league. They had sat at the top of the table from their first match against Remo Stars, which they won 2-1 in Sagamu.
They were only deposed a few times by closest rivals, MFM, on Match Days 1, 14, 16 and 18. Resolute at home and dogged away, they scored 39 goals at home, more than any other team (except Akwa United who scored same number in Uyo) and had the best away record in the league, accruing 13 points on the road.
Plateau went on a seven-game unbeaten run at the start of the season until it ended against Akwa United in the eighth week of the season with a 2-1 loss in Uyo. They would have won the league with four matches to spare after they beat MFM 1-0 on Match Day 34. But a string of losses dragged their triumph till the last day when they defeated Rangers 2-0 in Jos.
MFM stun bookmakers
No one gave the Olukoya Boys a chance at the start of the season – given that they struggled to escape relegation in their first season in the topflight.
Parading one of the youngest and inexperienced squad in the league last season, MFM had a modest side and fought to hold their own in the league – achieving their aim to earn a continental ticket.
Playing at their Agege Stadium home, they lost 14 matches away and drew five enroute to finishing second. MFM largely depended on their home form to stay in the title race till the last day when they lost 2-1 to El-Kanemi Warriors in Maiduguri. Seventeen of their 19 victories – 51 per cent, being the joint highest in the league — were in Lagos. Their two away victories came against Sunshine and Remo Stars in Akure and Sagamu respectively.
Olatunbosun’s CNN goal
Having 260 players scoring 763 goals across the games concluded during the season, there would certainly be a lot of amazing goals.
Nigerian league football dominated global headlines for the right reasons early in March because of Sikiru Olatunbosun’s outrageous effort against Rangers on February 24. It was one of the few matches played on Friday nights.
Olatubosun received a flick from striker Stephen Odey before he took a brilliant first touch to chip the ball over Rangers defender Mathew Etim and immediately followed it with a ferocious volley from 25 yards, over goalkeeper Itodo Akor and into the net.
The goal beat three other goals from other parts of the world to win the CNN Goal of the Week.
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