El Kanemi reach home field milestone, Ubong Friday continues Akwa's revival
ESPN FC correspondent Colin Udoh recaps the week that was in the Nigerian Premier League.
El Kanemi win 20th straight at home
For nearly 12 years, Kano Pillars proved invincible at their home ground, turning the edifice into a fortress where losing was unthinkable.
That record is unlikely to be matched any time soon, but this weekend, El Kanemi Warriors achieved a milestone that should leave even Pillars envious: they recorded their 20th consecutive win on home soil when they beat Niger Tornadoes 2-0 in Maiduguri.
Mathias Samuel opened the scoring for the Warriors 10 minutes before the break, and Ibrahim Babangida sealed victory 11 minutes after with a guided header.
The landmark result means El Kanemi have not dropped any points at home since April 2016. But of more immediate consideration is that the win keeps them in second place and within one point of log leaders Plateau United.
PLATEAU UNITED PASS PILLARS TEST
Speaking of Plateau United, their blazing start to the season has surprised many. There are those who would say they have surprised even themselves, but that is a different story.
The league leaders faced one of the sternest examinations of their early season title ambitions when they hosted former champions Kano Pillars.
Such is the size of Pillars reputation that there was some pre-game trepidation in the Plateau dressing room.
"We had to psych ourselves up mentally and psychologically knowing that Kano Pillars can cause problems to our quest in the league.
"We were nervous before the game and we kept talking about the match against Pillars in our camp. To win, we had to shake off the nervousness," goal scorer Ibe Johnson said.
This is the sort of win that boosts confidence, and Plateau will certainly be brimming with it.
AKWA UNITED RECOVERY CONTINUES APACE
Zero wins, 3 draws and 2 losses was Akwa United's record after 5 rounds of matches in the NPFL.
On Sunday, they hammered Sunshine Stars 3-1 in a game where they so outplayed the visitors, they could have scored six and the only anomaly was how Sunshine contrived to get a goal.
Ubong Friday scored twice, his second the quintessential definition of a sweeping counter-attack with opposition players left dizzied by the swift passing and change of direction weaved together by the Akwa players.
Musa Newman drew first blood, glancing in a header from Ifeanyi Ifeanyi. But the hosts where stunned when they attacked in numbers and left the backdoor open for an unmarked Yahuza Bala to slot home from close range. That was to be only temporary respite as Friday secured a very comfortable victory with two goals in quick success before the break.
The win took Akwa to, wait for this, sixth place in the table. And for all the talk of that ignominious start, the club have rallied to what is effectively very heady heights.
ODEY FLYING HIGH
League top scorer Stephen Odey seemingly cannot put a foot wrong. The MFM FC youngster took his tally for the season to eight when he scored the opening goal away at Enyimba.
Overlooked, along with other domestic standouts, by Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr in his current squad, Odey continues to force himself into the headlines, and he could not have picked a bigger opponent than Enyimba to do so against.
His goal was five minutes away from winning the fixture for MFM, until a late, acrobatic intervention by Ibrahim Mustapha.
CONTINENTAL DROPOFF CONTINUES
By the end of next weekend, Rivers United might well be the only Nigerian clubside left in continental competition. Unless, of course, Rangers pull a Barcelona and overturn the 4-1 deficit they're bring back home from Egypt.
Rivers handed down a 3-0 first-leg defeat to Sudan's fearsome Al Merreikh, who count former Dolphins striker Kelechi Osunwa among their ranks.
Rangers, on the other hand, were toppled 4-1 by Zamalek in Egypt and will need nothing short of a miracle to advance.
Prayer time, anyone?
Colin Udoh is a Nigeria football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.