The grand finale of the Naija Super 8 pre-season tournament lived up to its pregame hype and in a stunning fashion.
It saw wildcard entrant Sporting Lagos, defeat last season’s Nigeria Premier Football League runners-up, Remo Stars of Ikenne, in a penalty shootout after the game ended 1-1 after fulltime, at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan, Lagos.
How it happened
The first 15 minutes of the South Western derby final saw an end-to-end encounter in which both teams tried to grab the game by the scrub of the neck.
Saturday Okon linked up well with Jonathan Alukwu in the 11th minute, seeing his ferocious shot toward the face of the goal deflected out for a corner kick which the Sky Blue stars kept in check.
It was the best effort of the first 20 minutes of the half.
Remo Stars dominate
The boys from Ikenne upped the tempo right after that but were profligate in front of goal.
The NPFL runners-up continued to probe for the opener in the next 20 minutes but it wasn’t to be, as Isaac James and Junior Nduka missed some excellent chances.
Sporting Lagos had their moments too as Odafi Emmanuel hit an audacious volley from outside the box which narrowly missed in the 24th minute.
Chances came in torrents for the rest of the half but, neither Remo Stars nor Sporting Lagos could convert their chances when the opportunity arose.
An entertaining first half in front of a full-capacity crowd at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan ended goalless.
Despite the best efforts of the men from Ikenne, the Lagos Landlords stood their ground.
Action resumed in the second 45, the same way it ended, Boniface Nwaeze rising high to connect a Seun Ogunribide’s delivery from a corner, but sending his header wide.
Sporting Lagos, the NPFL newcomers, took the lead against the run of play just under 10mins into the half as Aliu Salawudeen fired home from close range in the 54th minute, after Nwokeji’s free-kick, met by a Jonathan Alukwu header, was parried into his path.
The goal sent the fans into ecstasy, as the overcrowded MBJ arena, shook to its very foundations.
Lagos had found a new darling team, and it was time for their enthronement at the first attempt, as the fans came out in large numbers.
Galvanized after the breakthrough, Sporting Lagos pressed for more. Jonathan Alukwu forced Kayode Bankole to a superb save with a volley on the hour mark, and the resulting corner kick was cleared.
A couple of substitutions were made in the next 10 minutes by both sides as Ayemwenre went off for Chisom Ngomere in Sporting’s first change.
Sikiru Alimi replaced Franck Mawuena for Remo Stars a couple of minutes earlier while Seun Ogunribide also went off for Adams Olamilekan.
Remo All Out For A Leveller
The Skyblue stars upped the tempo for an elusive equaliser in the last 10 mins of regular time which paid off albeit for a short while.
After a long spell of pressure from Coach Daniel Ogunmodede’s led side, Sodiq Ismail’s inviting cross-found substitute Adams Olamilekan, who fired home a grounder in the 87th minute, sending the stars fans in the crowd to the seventh heaven.
But, the celebration was cut short, as the flag was raised albeit incorrectly. As replays on the large screen showed, Olamilekan was perfectly onside before the goal.
However, he was not to be denied, as five minutes into extra time of eight minutes after regulation time, Adams Olamilekan gets his goal, latching unto a Sikiru Alimi shot with a crucial touch in the 95th minute, which sends the ball home, and the fans into delirium!
A deserved equaliser for the boys from Ikenne, as the highly tense encounter ended in a stalemate – Remo Stars one, Sporting Lagos one – after regulation plus extra time.
Penalties Decide Fate
It went straight to penalties where Sporting Lagos kept their calm to convert all their spot-kicks, to become the maiden champions of the Naija Super 8 tournament.
The Ikenne boys had only themselves and fatigue to blame, as Captain Junior Nduka and ever-reliable wingback, Sadiq Ismail, both missed their kicks, sending them home empty-handed.
It was a script well written in the stars, as the Lagos landlords, alias Noisy Lagosians, came from being lowly-rated wildcards to Champions.
What a run for the NPFL newcomers! Football is indeed back in Lagos!
It begs for a new question to be answered as well. With three wins out of three for Sporting Lagos, and two wins back-to-back against Remo Stars, is Sporting Lagos the new king of the block?
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