The Naija Super 8 play-offs was a good advertisement for Nigeria’s club football.
The play-offs held at the Eket Township Stadium, featured six intriguing matches that set the ball rolling for the maiden edition of the biggest off-season football tournament in Nigeria.
At the end of the three matchdays, which produced 17 goals, Lobi Stars, Remo Stars, Yobe Desert Stars, Enyimba International, Katsina United and Rivers United booked their slots in the Naija Suoer 8 finals, to be held at the Mobolaji Johnson Stadium, Onikan, Lagos State from 7-16 July.
The play-offs started on June 23 with a thrilling North-Central derby between Lobi Stars and City FC of Abuja. Lobi took the lead with David Okoromi’s 30th minute opener into the halftime. After the break, City FC scored an equalizer through Ibrahim Mahfus, and went ahead after Arinze Ogbonna found the back of the net. Joseph Atule’s 86th minute equalizer dragged the game to penalties where Lobi Stars triumphed 4-3.
In the second game of the matchday, Remo Stars hammered Shooting Stars 3-0 in an entertaining Southwest derby to continue their unbeaten streak against the Oluyole Warriors. Andy Okpe broke the deadlock in the 7th minute, Boniface Nweze doubled the lead in the 12th minute. Shooting Stars spurned glorious chances to comeback in the game, before Samuel Anakwe’s 74th minute close range tap-in put the game to bed.
On matchday two, Nigerian National League team, Yobe Desert Stars clinched a surprise 2-1 victory over their Northeast rival, Gombe United to become the first second-tier club to book a place in the Naija Super 8 finals.
The match day ended with a cagey Oriental derby between the reigning Nigeria Professional League Champions, Enyimba and their bitter rivals, Heartland FC. Murphy Ndukwe scored the sole goal of the game in the 25th minute. Both clubs fluffed a number of glorious chances which could have made the contest a high-scoring one.
The football excitement reached a high crescendo on matchday three starting with the North-West cracker between former NPFL champions, Kano Pillars and Katsina United. Samson Olasofo made up for chances he failed to convert in the game by scoring the match winner for Katsina United in the 84th minute.
And the final match of the play-offs was a blockbuster game between Rivers United and Bendel Insurance. Liberian Albert Korvah gave Rivers the lead in the 10th minute, but Insurance drew level in the 45th minute courtesy of Dede Moghara’s penalty. Korvah once again gave Rivers the lead in the 50th minute, while Insurance restored parity through Okon Ini-Obong’s stunning goal in the 71st minute. A 90th minute penalty converted by Morice Chukwu sealed victory for Rivers.
All the matches were broadcast live on SuperSport. Fans at the stadium were also thrilled by musical performances from notable Uyo based acts namely Ikpa Udo, Pasto Goody Goody and XTO.
The six qualified clubs are set to be joined at the main tournament by two wildcard teams set to be revealed on June 29, 2023.
Naija Super 8 is organised by Flykite Productions in partnership with MultiChoice Nigeria and sponsors, MTN, Hero Lager, DStv, GOtv, SuperSport, Moniepoint, Pepsi and Custodian Assurance.