NPFL Matchday 12: Hot talking points

Kabiru Umar of Heartland, James Moses of Sunshine Stars Kabiru Abubakar/BackpagePix

Nigerian football fans were treated to another weekend of drama in the NPFL, as Kano Pillars' eight-game unbeaten streak came to an end and MFM FC thumped Heartland 3-0.

Here are KweséESPN's key observations from a fascinating NPFL matchday 12, where there was as much intrigue off the pitch as on it.

Absent Lokosa costs Pillars

Kano Pillars travelled to face Yobe Desert Stars with every intention of extending their eight-match unbeaten run. With the free-scoring Junior Lokosa in their ranks, they looked good for at least a point.

That is, until disaster struck.

The forward, who has hit 10 goals from 11 games so far this season, came down with a stomach bug and was forced to miss the game.

In his absence, Yobe ran out 2-0 winners, snapping Pillars' unbeaten run.

Lokosa's absence was a big factor, but in addition to their lack of goals, Pillars' defence was a concern.

This was the third time they've shipped more than one this term, having drawn 2-2 with Katsina United in their opener before being beaten 2-1 by Rivers United earlier in the campaign.

They hadn't failed to score since gameweek eight, when they were held 0-0 by Sunshine Stars.

Otop vindicates Elechi faith

As impressive as Go Round FC's 1-0 win over Sunshine Stars was, the identity of their goalscorer represents a impressive talking point all on its own.

Prior to this game, leading striker Okon Otop had only managed two goals so far this term, and failed to find the net until eight games into the campaign.

After breaking his duck against Abia Warriors, he then scored against El Kanemi Warriors the week after before his form dipped again.

This prompted fans to stage a mild protest ahead of the game, calling for the forward to be dropped and replaced by Ekunta Etenfa. The latter was the club's leading scorer last season with 11 goals, but has yet to taste a minute of action this term.

Coach Ngozi Elechi resisted the pressure and stuck with Otop, who repaid the faith with that winning goal when he met Adelani Adesuen's cross with an exquisitely guided header past Moses Ocheje.

Coach vindicated and supporters silenced...for now!

Heartland coach plays blame game after big loss

It is customary for NPFL coaches, when they lose games, to either blame the referee for 'poor officiating', or their players for 'not playing to instruction'.

Heartland coach Ramson Madu took it to a whole other level on Sunday after his wards were pummelled 3-0 by MFM FC in Lagos.

"My players didn't play for me and they did not play for Heartland FC," Madu told the media after the game. "My enemies have penetrated into my players to play against me."


Madu's Heartland, who returned straight back to the Premier League after experiencing their first taste of relegation two seasons ago, have struggled since their comeback.

They've won just three of their 11 games so far, with four draws and four losses, including a home defeat by Lobi Stars.

However, they have also won away, beating Niger Tornadoes 2-1 in Minna, which makes Madu's statement all the more preposterous.

It should be intriguing to see how the coach motivates his players for their remaining games after all but accusing them of sabotage