Thursday, April 18, 2024

NPFL: Sporting Lagos Resurgence Renews Hope Of Survival

Sporting Lagos has experienced a significant uptick in performance during the second half of the NPFL, moving up from 17th to 13th after two straight victories in a week.

Sporting Lagos at the weekend recorded two clean sheets in a row for the first time since September 2023.
Tochukwu Micheal’s free kick in the 56th minute earned the Noisy Lagosians the win over Bendel Insurance.
“I feel good, I have worked for it,” said Tochukwu while speaking with PREMIUM TIMES.

This is a new lease of life for the Noisy Lagosians, who sought goals in every area around the end of the first stanza.

Sporting Lagos has experienced a significant uptick in performance during the second half of the NPFL, moving up from 17 to 13 after two straight victories in a week.

With a strong backline and decent composure between Adeleke Adekunle and Salawudeen Aliu, Sporting Lagos kept five clean sheets in the first stanza, three coming when they started the season against Gombe United, Akwa United, and Doma United.

After this bravery, it took the Lagos team two months to record another clean sheet against the Kano Pillars and Katsina later in December.

However, of all the teams they have kept clean sheets against, only Doma United posed more dangerous threats compared to both Rivers United and Bendel Insurance, who had histories of being offensive on the road.
Despite boasting one of the most threatening attacks in the NPFL, Rivers United failed to register two shots on goal against Sporting Lagos on Wednesday.

It got worse for Bendel Insurance, a team with one of the highest goal chances on the road being subdued to zero shots on target.

This is a change from Sporting Lagos, a team that conceded goals in seven consecutive games before the first half of the season started.

Meanwhile, the marriage between new signing Adeleke and captain Salawudeen Aliu at the centreback has brought a covering on goalkeeper Christian Nwoke.

One of the highlights of Salawudeen against Bendel Insurance was his defensive mechanism, which he used to deny Chisom Okereke a counter that could have caused harm to his side.

A very similar attitude was used to dis-harm Nyima Nwagua of Rivers United on Wednesday.

Christian Nwoke, in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES after the game, said their idea of being focused in each game they play going forward has earned the team a change of fortune.

“As a team, we remained focused despite our shortcomings, and that gave us the motivation to keep working hard and remain focused on the game. The second half has just started, and we have to remain focused to end well on the table.”

The current team looks prepared

Another home win for the team, and Godwin Enakhena, Sporting Lagos’ General Manager, just as he did after Rivers United’s game, shook hands with his players for the work well done for the second time in a week.
He waved to the fans, thanking them for their usual cooperation.

But the hands of the players he shook are a different set from those that started the first stanza, a lot of reshuffling has been done.

Tochukwu Michael, the goalscorer, is a new player who started the season with NNL side Nasarawa United.
He said the review from the first stanza posed a challenge for them to involve the technical director, Paul Aigbogun, more about the team’s technicalities and also drop players who didn’t seem to fit into their profile.

“The first thing we did and realised was that we needed a change of personnel involving our technical director more in our football to lend a helping hand, and we had to drop a lot of our players, not that they weren’t good enough, but this is the Premier League, and the second stanza isn’t tomorrow.”

And about the goals, Mr. Enakhena said the issues will be sorted out going forward.

Aigbogun on missed chances, other issues

Reflecting on Sporting Lagos’ wasted chances, Paul Aigbogun told PREMIUM TIMES the team is transitioning at the moment with new ideas hoping to evolve in the coming games.

Sporting Lagos missed chances starting with Jonathan Alukwu’s miss to Pascal Onyekachi’s through ball in the 11th minute.

Onyekachi also failed to connect to a pass from Alukwu later in the game.

Alukwu missed a sitter in the second half as well.

“I feel we had a lot of chances earlier on and when you don’t take your chances earlier on, the other teams try to counter. We should have scored two goals in the first half. We have a lot of new players trying to blend more as fast as possible. We take one game at a time.”

He also added that Alukwu’s playing as a pointsman was a reflection of his impact on the training. Alukwu made a lot of draw-back which helped the team to outweigh Bendel Insurance’s midfield.

And about Jamiu, who returned to active football after a year, Aigbogun said the defensive midfielder is just getting his feet, and Samuel Ayanrinde, who’s currently recovering from injury.

Onyekachi is a surge

One of the active players on the pitch on Sunday was Paschal Onyekachi, whose involvement broke the firewall of Bendel Insurance a couple of times.

Julius Emilokan had to struggle several times to stop Onyekachi, and his take-on saw Sporting Lagos have two clear chances on goal in the first half.

However, the absence of Taminu Benjamin caused an imbalance in the Benin Gunners’ team.

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