NPFL top scorer Anthony Okpotu scored a brace as Nigeria’s home-based Super Eagles on Sunday emerged champions of the 2017 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Pre-season Invitational tournament after a thrilling 3-2 win over MFM FC at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano.
Okpotu, making his first start of the tournament scored twice to give the Eagles a commanding lead before his club mate Kingsley Eduwo added a third midway through the second half.
MFM however did not go down without a fight as left back Jonathan Zikiye and centre back Chuka Uwaga scored inside the final five minutes to give the Church Boys a result their performance merited.
Both teams cancelled each other out for most parts of the first half but Salisu Yusuf’s Eagles found a breakthrough on the dot of half time when Okpotu lofted home Peter Eneji’s through pass from 25 yards.
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El-Kanemi starlet Nura Mohammed then came on in the second half for the Eagles and had a hand in the their remaining goals, first setting up Okpotu on 69 minutes, the striker taking his time before rifling home from 8 yards before then robbing MFM defender Austin Opara of the possession inside the box and set up substitute Eduwo who chipped over the stranded MFM goalie Folarin Abayomi.
The Eagles were unstoppable at that point but Fidelis Ilechukwu’s MFM persisted and got two late goals – both from dead ball situations – as scant consolation for their effort.
Stanley Okorom spotted Zikiye’s run at the other flank and the right back floated his free kick onto his path. The former Kano Pillars left back finished with aplomb by bundling the ball over goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai with five minutes left. The second came when substitute Chijioke Akuneto’s in swinging corner met an unmarked Uwaga who headed home from close range on the dot of 90 minutes .
Earlier on Sunday, goalkeeper Friday Achimugwu saved two penalties as Enyimba beat Kano Pillars 3-2 on penalties in the 5th and 6th classification game after full time had ended goalless. The hosts, by the loss finished last of all the six teams at the tournament.
League champions Plateau United also produced a come-from-behind victory to beat Akwa United 2-1 in the 3rd and 4th place classification. Youngster Aniekeme Asuquo gave Akwa a first half lead through a powerful free kick but Sodiq Yusuf levelled for Plateau in the second half before Hamzat Owolabi’s penalty sealed victory for Kenedy Boboye’s men.
The Pre-Season Invitational tournament is an annual prelude to the start of a new league season in Nigeria. The 2017/18 season will start in exactly four weeks’ time.