Rivers United were the biggest jumpers on the final day of the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) even though they lost their Week 38 match to Sunshine Stars in Akure.
The Port Harcourt-based team needed victory in Akure to earn a continental ticket on the final day of the league, but they lost 0-1 to the home team, who with the win secured their stay in the top flight.
However, Rivers United still had reasons to cheer as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) earlier in the day upheld their protest against Jigawa Golden Stars, who allegedly fielded an ineligible player, Richard Christopher, in their Week 34 game played at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna on July 21.
The committee awarded three points and three goals to Rivers United, which shot the Port Harcourt boys to the second position and a place in the CAF Champions League.
Akwa United had already won the title before yesterday’s games, leaving five clubs, including Nasarawa United, Kano Pillars, Rivers United, Enyimba, and Kwara United to fight for the remaining two continental slots.
Only Nasarawa United, though, needed an outright win to finish in second place and grab the remaining CAF Champions League place.
Rivers United needed to win in Akure, thereby relegating Sunshine Stars, while Enyimba needed to win at Dakkada FC with the hope that both Rivers United and Kano Pillars fail to win their games. Kano Pillars were away to Heartland FC.
Kwara United had the most difficult task of winning at home to Katsina United and hoping Rivers, Enyimba, and Kano Pillars did not win.
At the end of Match Day 38 fixtures, it was Enyimba who won the day, winning 3-1 at Dakkada FC. Anayo Iwuala got a brace in the 11th and 78th minutes, Musa Bashiru pulled one back in the 29th minute, when it was 2-0 following Samad Kadiri’s second goal for Enyimba in the 25th minute.
Enyimba would have finished second on the table had Rivers United not received the three points from their protest against Jigawa Golden Stars.
In third place, Enyimba will play in the CAF Confederation Cup, while Kwara United, who beat Katsina United 3-0 and thought they had ended in the third position and the CAF Confederation Cup ticket, dropped to the fourth position.
Nasarawa United fell 3-1 to Abia Warriors in Okigwe, just as Kano Pillars lost 0-1 to Heartland.
Jigawa Golden Stars joined Adamawa United and FC IfeanyiUbah in the relegation train after losing 0-2 to MFM in Lagos.
The fourth relegation spot would be decided by the final outcome of the FC IfeanyiUbah game against Warri Wolves in Nnewi.
Wolves needed to win at FC IfeanyiUbah and Rivers United to get a good result in Akure against Sunshine Stars.
Sunshine Stars won the game in Akure, while the match between FC IfeanyiUbah and Wolves was disrupting halfway with the home team leading by a lone goal.