During the Week: Eguavoen Out, Heats Doused and More

For the first time since the Nigeria Professional Football League began on March 9, no away win was recorded yet Matchday Four witnessed the most number of teams pick up a point on the road.

At Maiduguri Bayelsa United was two goals up and looking full value for a win that would’ve taken the Yenagoa club top of the league, only for El-Kanemi to score two goals in the closing half hour and claim a share of the spoils.

Sunshine Stars also conceded late on to settle for a 1-1 draw at Dolphins while Enugu Rangers and Enyimba were also held to 1-1 draws at Kaduna United and Nembe City respectively, with Nasarawa United coming away from Warri with a point in a goalless draw against Wolves.

The drawn matches played out by Sunshine, Rangers, Enyimba and Bayelsa allowed champions Kano Pillars return to the top of the league courtesy of a 2-0 win at home to Shooting Stars. Pillars now have nine points from four matches, ahead of Sunshine Stars and Rangers by point. Kwara United lies fourth on the standings, also a point behind Pillars, after beating Heartland by a lone goal in Ilorin.

In other matches, Wikki Tourists climbed five places from the foot of the table with a 2-0 win over Akwa United while Sharks of Port-Harcourt dropped to the bottom of the league with a 2-0 loss at Gombe United.

Apart from putting Sharks at the foot of the table, it also got the club’s management to begin a search for a new manager after Austin Eguavoen; a former Super Eagles and Flying Eagles manager, resigned from his post with the club.

And already, manager of last season’s CAF Champions League semi-finalists Sunshine Stars, Gbenga Ogunbote has reportedly been approached to take over the reins at Port-Harcourt.

Away from the home league, the Flying Eagles failed in their attempt to defend the Africa Youth Championship crown after losing 2-0 to the young Pharaohs of Egypt in a semi-final earlier in the week. The Egyptians will now face Ghana for the AYC crown later today in Algiers, after the Black Starlets beat Mali on penalties; with Ghana’s goalkeeper saving three spot kicks.

Mali’s young Eagles faced Nigeria in the third place play-off last night, with Nigeria getting revenge for the opening day defeat to the Malians with a 2-1 win courtesy of second half goals from Aminu Umar.

On the international front, world and European champions Spain returned to the top of their World Cup Qualifying group with a hard-fought 1-0 win at France, while Germany, Belgium, Croatia and the Netherlands remained on course to seal qualification from their respective groups with respective wins.

Spain’s win came courtesy of Pedro’s goal, but the pacy forward will be unavailable this weekend for Barcelona’s match against Celta Vigo. The Catalan giants will also be without Carles Puyol, full backs Adriano and Jordi Alba through injury as well as first choice keeper Victor Valdes who continues to serve a suspension.

However, manager Tito Vilanova will be back at the club but likely won’t be in the dug-out just yet against Celta, after completing another round of treatment for his throat cancer in New York.

In Chicago meanwhile, the star-studded Miami Heats side saw a remarkable run of 27 successive matches won come to an end on Wednesday night in a thrilling 101-97 loss against the Chicago Bulls. The loss left the Heats six wins short of the all-time record of 33 straight matches won set by the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 1970s.

At a point though it seemed the Lebron James led Heats would make it 28 wins on the bounce after the visitors had overturned a double-figure deficit; as it had done in two previous matches this month, and taken the lead in the third quarter. But the Bulls refused to succumb and in the end claimed a historic win.

Away from the basketball, it was reported/rumoured that US intelligence agency, the FBI had arrested Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in “God’s own country”. The Russian’s spokesman, and later himself, would soon after debunk those reports but, why they emanated in the first place leaves one curious.

Someone else who did get arrested was father of Gary and Phil Neville, Neville Neville (had to check the name multiple times) on suspicion of sexually assaulting a woman in her 40s. The 63 year old Neville was later released on bail till May while an enquiry over the incident ensues.

In the mean time, action returns to the major European leagues this weekend with Juventus’ visit of Inter Milan in the Serie A the match to watch, along with Bayern Munich’s match at home to Hamburg in the Bundesliga. A win for both sides would edge them closer to their respective domestic league title.

In France, PSG went even closer to the Ligue Un title with a lone goal win over reigning champions Montpellier last night, thanks to a late Kevin Gameiro goal. The win opened an eight-point gap for PSG over Olympique Lyon that hosts Sochaux on Sunday while third placed Marseille, a further two points behind, visit Nice.

In England, Manchester United visit Sunderland in a much healthier position than the last time both teams met at the Stadium of Light. Then, United had won by a lone goal but lost the league title on goal difference to city rivals Man. City. Today, the Red Devils head into the early kick-off 15 points clear of City, that hosts Newcastle United later on today.

Elsewhere, Chelsea face a potential banana skin match at Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur will hope to end a run of three straight losses in all competitions at Swansea while Arsenal host relegation threatened Reading as the Gunners keep chase of Chelsea and Spurs in the race for a top four finish.

In Nigeria, third placed Rangers will host fourth placed Kwara United in this weekend’s top bill match of the NPFL. Sharks will be at ‘home’ to Dolphins in the Port-Harcourt derby while Sunshine Stars will host Lobi Stars at Akure and league leaders Kano Pillars will be guests of ABS in Ilorin.

That’s about it with the round-up. Will be rooting for Kwara United in their tough trip to Enugu, as well as Lazio at home to Catania… and Andy Murray in the Sony Open in Miami as he looks to become Tennis’ number two player should he defeat David Ferrer in the final there.

Have a great Easter weekend! Jesus is Lord!

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