Sunshine Stars recorded their first away win of the season by beating Abubakar Bukola Saraki FC 4-2 at the Kwara State Sports Complex in what was the biggest result of match day 28 in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
The win was the 11th victory on the road in the NPFL this term and the Owena Whales played some exhilarating and swift-counter attacking football which inflicted the first home loss for the Saraki Boys. The result has also taken Sunshine out of the relegation zone as they sit in 16th place with just 10 games left to play.
Although, the result in Ilorin came as a surprise to many (including myself), but I have always been of the opinion that if only teams could play good (attacking) football at away grounds, results would come such that “poor officiating” won’t be able to deny them of their points. We saw a similar performance in Ibadan where FC Ifeanyi Ubah humbled Shooting Stars 3-0 right in front of its own supporters and it passed without any controversy.
Despite the humiliating defeat suffered by ABS, the home supporters applauded the Akure Gunners’ players and officials right after the game. I hope other club fans can take a cue from this, embracing sportsmanship and good behaviour and saying no to violence regardless of the outcome of results.
Just when it seemed Sunshine Stars were destined for the drop after being plagued by managerial issues, are things turning around for them?
Earlier in the season, the players of the Ondo State owned club threatened to boycott their game against ABS on match day eight due to non-payment of outstanding salaries and bonuses, which needed the intervention of the League Management Company.
From there on, the Owena Whales struggled to churn out comfortable home wins and favourable results away from home were not forthcoming.
At the end of the first stanza, the poor performance of the team led to the sacking of Kayode Olujohungbe as they hung in relegation waters. In came former Super Eagles boss Austin Eguavoen but he didn’t last long on the job as poor results continued and complaints about poor officiating mounted.
Like the worst hadn’t happened already, Sunshine Stars had to play behind closed doors due to crowd violence that occurred during the 1-0 home loss to Lobi Stars before been banished away from Akure to Ijebu-Ode for other offenses.
Dipo Dina Stadium in Ijebu-Ode became Sunshine’s makeshift home and former Osun United boss, Duke Udi, was appointed.
The team’s fortune has since begun to change as results at home have improved as well as on the road.
Not only was the result in Ilorin impressive, it also emphasized that Sunshine Stars aren’t as bad as their 16th position suggest on the league table. The result showed renewed desire, intent and clear determination that had been missing on the path of the players and officials, evidenced by winning three of their last five league matches.
Can they carry this back to Akure now that their ban is over?
Sunshine Stars wouldn’t have envisaged seeing themselves in a relegation battle before the season kicked off. The 2012 CAF Champions League semi-finalists can still however go all the way in the Aiteo Cup to secure a continental ticket; but as things stand now, they need to keep up the good work and survive the relegation tsunami.
Duke Udi seems to have things under control, as players that were playing minor roles under previous managers especially Ajibola Otegbeye, Sikiru Alimi and Ezekiel Thompson, have all started playing a big part in the team’s quest for survival.
Udi’s impact can’t be neglected; coupled with the good fortunes of Ijebu-Ode, the team might just beat the drop now that they are back in Akure.
Is Duke Udi the answer to Sunshine’s problems? Will he steer them clear of relegation troubles? Let’s have your thoughts in the comment box below.
Follow Samuel on Twitter: @Undisputed_Jsam
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