More than 40,000 Enyimba fans, who trooped to the Aba Township Stadium yesterday to watch their darling team record their seventh league title, had to endure an agonising 40 minutes of Warri Wolves’ onslaught, but at the end of the day, the ‘Peoples Elephant’ ground out the draw that added to their legend, as the most successful club in Nigerian football history.
Going into yesterday’s game, Enyimba had a five-point advantage over Warri Wolves, who were their closest rivals for the crown. The former CAF Champions League winners were expected to get the required draw that would crown them league kings even with one round of game left. And they set about doing just that until the 50th minute when Daniel Etor was sent off for ungentlemanly behaviour.
As fortune smiled on the Wolves, so also did their confidence rise in their quest for the victory that would have reduced the points’ deficit to two and a chance of stealing the crown from the home team. At the end, their best efforts could not deny Enyimba, who clinched the crown with 69 points, six points clear of the Warri side.
Enyimba also had the best away record (five wins and seven draws).
Warri Wolves will win Nigeria’s second CAF Champions League spot by finishing second if they got the expected home win over relegated FC Taraba next week.
Yesterday’s game came to life five minutes into the second half when national U-23 team forward, Daniel Etor, was sent off for punching Gbolahan Salami. Five minutes later, Joseph Osadiaye had a golden chance to nick the points for Wolves, but he blasted wide a fine cross from Stanley Dimgba.
Enyimba strikers, Mfon Udoh and Peter Onyekachi, had chances to win the game for their side, but poor marksmanship and some desperate defending by Wolves’ defenders denied them the opportunity.
In the last 15 minutes, Wolves laid siege in Enyimba’s half, but Skipper Chinedu Udoji and the impressive Markson Ojobo ensured that Salami and his mates did not derail their title ambition. The game ended goalless.
Also yesterday, defending champions, Kano Pillars, beat Akwa United 1-0 to send the Uyo-based team closer to the lower division, where they may play next season alongside Kwara United, Taraba United and Bayelsa United.
If Akwa United beat Lobi Stars next week at the Akpabio International Stadium, the Uyo team will survive the drop provided Sharks and Dolphins do not win their away games.
Sharks are on 45 points with a -7goals difference, while Dolphins and Akwa United are on 44 points each with -2 and -11 points difference respectively.
Dolphins will be away to 3SC in Ibadan, while Sharks will meet Heartland in Owerri. Of the trio, Akwa United look the most likely survivor as they are home to Lobi Stars next week.
Kwara United lost their Premier League status after being beaten by Sharks, while Sunshine Stars 2-1 defeat of Bayelsa United ensured that the later joined the lower division.
FC Taraba’s 2-1 defeat of Abia Warriors was also not enough to save them from going down, as results elsewhere meant they finished bottom of the table.
In other games played yesterday, El Kanemi Warriors beat Wikki Tourists 1-0, Dolphins and Heartland ended their match 1-1, Giwa FC beat 3SC 2-1, FC Ifeanyiubah were beaten 2-1 at home by Nasarawa United, while Lobi Stars defeated Enugu Rangers 2-0.