WELCOME TO THE SECOND HALF!!!

The second half of any football game is always critical, nerve-cracking and can be a bumpy ride. The 2015 season enters the second half  this weekend as the league enters a stage where the twenty club seek points seriously to either win the league, retain or maintain their league status. As we enter the round of twenty fixtures lets take a quick preview of these matches.

DOLPHINS FC VS NASARAWA UNITED
The home team have not been in good form so far this season. Scoring goals have been a big problem for them and as well as coping with varying degrees of injuries in the squad has hampered the three time champions’ battle for points.The reverse fixture ended One nil in favour of the away team Nasarawa with Leonard Ugochukwu’s goal in the 54th minute proving to be the winner. With Mohammed Baba Ganaru now signed on as Kano Pillars technical Adviser, the Lafia based club will be looking to Kabir Suleiman Dogo for expertise to see them through the remainder of the season.

Gbolahan Salami

SHARKS FC vs WARRI WOLVES
After picking up just three wins in nineteen games this season and also changing their bench twice already , the ‘Blue Angels’ still languish in an uneviable position on the log, sitting 17th with eighteen points from nineteen matches. Against the ‘sea siders’ who are currently third on the log after collecting four points from their outstanding three matches, much will be expected from Christian Pyagbara and the likes if they hope to discontinue their steady slide on the league.

KANO PILLARS vs LOBI STARS
An enthralling 3-3 draw was what happened on matchday 19  at the Aper Aku stadium in Makurdi where Lobi stars had to come back from three goals to pick a point at home with the defending champions. Lobi stars themselves are not far from the relegation battle as they are just three points away from the drop and home coach Justin Tenger might just be another manager losing his job soon if results don’t start turning their way. For Kano Pillars, a bit of fresh start as the new gaffer in Mohammed Baba Ganaru has his hands full to correct all the wrongs of Okey Emordi if they are to still challenge for the title.

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ELKANEMI WARRIORS vs SHOOTING STARS
With just two points separating these sides,  much will be at stake as Elkanemi will want to make sure of three points at home after conceding defeat to the Ibadan warlords even though they went ahead at the Lekan Salami stadium. For Gbenga Ogunbote it will be an opportunity to pick points on the road as he continues with the transformation work in Ibadan.

WIKKI TOURIST vs HEARTLAND FC
A disastrous and cataclysmic loss in Onitsha was heart breaking for the once table topping team as they lost to their host in the reverse fixture 4-nil; but coach Audu Maikaba will not want to toy with this fixture again after he rested as much as seven of his regular players. There is definitely revenge on the cards in this fixture.

GIWA FC vs KWARA UNITED
The host team were not impressive enough in their last match and will want to take advantage of their visitors abysmal performance in their rescheduled match with Warri Wolves. Coach Tunde Sanni who brought the Afonja warriors from the second tier football last season has been handed the mantle to see that what happened in 2012/2013 when they were relegated from the elite league doesnt repeat itself . Much luck to him from my end.

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FC IFEANYI UBAH vs ABIA WARRIORS
Two rival clubs from south eastern Nigeria will be locking horns once again in the Nigeria professional football League (NPFL) as they meet only for the second time. The first leg ended with a slim victory for the visitors as the solitary goal from freekick specialist Ndifreke Effiong was enough to seal the maximum points. Coach John Obuh since taking over has not had it smooth with recent results and will not be too pleasant to the oil tycoon who has invested heavily into the club and also chasing a continental slot. They will have to do more if that dream is to become a reality.

FC TARABA vs SUNSHINE STARS
With the scintillating form of Sunshine stars putting them top of the table, one would expect that they grab all maximum points against their host who have failed to pick a win in seventeen matches as their last win was away from home when they pipped Akwa United 1-nil in Uyo. Looks a straight win most likely for the away team if they play their cards well.

Nigerian player Chinonso Christian Obiozor celebrates after scoring a goal against Zimbabwe during the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) football match between Zimbabwe and Nigeria for the third and fourth place, in Cape Town on February 1, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE        (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

ENYIMBA INT’L vs RANGERS INT’L
After losing his home record to his former employer, coach Imama Amapakabo will have to restrategize if he is to pick anything away from Aba this time around. With Mfon Udoh returning to training and the whole team on a high, it all points to an Enyimba win in this Oriental derby, but like they say with derbies, anything is possible.

BAYELSA UNITED vs AKWA UNITED
Bayelsa United have been moving in and out of the relegation zone freely and that has to stop if the 2009 league champion want to maintain status quo in the NPFL next season. Coach Zachary Baraje has been able to turn the tide slightly in favour of the Uyo based club in recent matches but now the real work begins for him and his lad as they seek Survival.

Timi Owoeye
@timirhema

The NPFL 2015 SEASON SO FAR!!!

Halfway through the mark and we are set for what could be one of the best seasons so far witnessed in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) having scored a total of Four hundred and Eleven goals (411), one short of last season’s tally at this same stage. Bearing in mind that there is still one outstanding match to be played we have had an average of 21.63 goals per match day and a scoring rate of 2.17 goals per match after playing 189 matches and it can only get better relative to the last football season. Teams now travel away from homes with high hopes of returning to base with at least a point in the bag much so that Enyimba Int’L FC boast of Four away wins , the highest so far in the NPFL. Returnee club Wikki Tourist are behind the Aba Elephants with three away wins on the log.

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The biggest away win so far this season was credited to Sunshines Stars of Akure travelling all the way to Owerri to play the then inform team Heartland FC in week 7 with Tunde Adeniji joint top-scorer with 11 goals so far this season helping himself to a brace in that encounter. The highest home win record is credited to the same Heartland FC who scuppered the chances of Wikki Tourist from staying joint top with Sunshine stars and Enyimba as they were walloped 4-0 at the Rojenny Stadium in Oba, Onitsha in week 19.

Expulsions and caution cards have come aplenty with Yellow cards standing at 525 (as at Matchday 15) and Red cards totaling 28.

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The biggest winners of this first stanza has to be Sunshine stars. Amassing 36 points from a total haul of 57 points, keeping their home record intact without dropping a point (the only club)as well as getting some few points away from home, has indeed lifted them to the dizzy heights of the table. The last time they challenged for the title was as far back as 2011 when they finished runners up to Dolphins FC (who are right now on a low) with Gbenga Ogunbote at the helms of affair. Enyimba Int’l rank as the best team so far in the league (my opinion though) garnering as much as four away victories  three away draws giving them a total of 15 points from ten away matches, scoring ten goals and conceding same. Not bad for the six time champions. They are joint table-toppers with the ‘Owena Waves’ from Akure and are just slightly behind on goal difference. Wikki Tourist, apart from their disastrous match day 19 nightmare where they were brutally battered by Heartland FC have also been in imperious form securing three away wins and draws to put them on the third spot on the log. Giwa FC, Heartland FC and FC Ifeanyi Ubah are the other teams who have showed consistent promise in the first stanza as they continue their push for continental slot.

For Sharks FC, Bayelsa United, Dolphins FC and FC Taraba, they live to fight one more round as they will be seeking to better their precarious state in the relegation zone when the second stanza of the NPFL starts tentatively on the 2nd of August. Other clubs such as Akwa United, Kwara United, Lobi Stars and Nasarawa United will be looking behind them to avoid swimming in the murky waters of the season. Rangers International, Kano Pillars, Warri Wolves (with a game in hand), Abia Warriors, Elkanemi Warriors and Shooting Stars (who have been revived by Gbenga Ogunbote) will also want to improve on their mediocre performances in the first round.

TEAM OF THE FIRST STANZA

In a 4-3-3 formation, I choose my team of the season after Matchweek 19.

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IKECHUKWU EZENWA (Sunshine Stars)
Fantastic goalkeeper whose impressive run last season was blighted with injury. The former Sharks FC player is back between the sticks this season and has continued from where he stopped last season. Testament to this is his first invitation to the Super Eagles squad.

NNAMSO EDO ( Akwa united)
Modern full backs tend to overlap these days and go out to score goals for their team and this has not been lacking in the games of the 20 year old who is also turning to a free kick specialist popularly called ‘Cameroon’.  With a perfect three goals already this season (one penalty, one free kick and one from open play)he could still improve on his Six goals tally of last season.

EZE STEPHEN (Sunshine Stars)
The former Lobi Stars defender has been a shining star with the league leaders with so many man-of-the-match performances so far this season.

Chinedu Udoji

CHINEDU UDOJI (Enyimba Int’l)
The ever reliable centre back got noticed by the erstwhile coach of the national team Stephen Keshi and was given an invitation to the Super Eagles squad even though he didn’t feature for the team, but it says a lot about the towering defender who has been consistent in Enyimba’s backline.

JONATHAN ZIKIYE (Dolphins FC)
Even if his team is not doing well at the moment, nothing can be taken away from the left full back who has shone and even scored important goals for his team. He has gotten three goals so far this season.

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PAUL ONOBI (Sunshine Stars)
A very solid and disciplined midfielder who has matched up his break up play and defensive duties with goal scoring can contest favourably well if given the chance to compete in the Super Eagles. In the absence of Ogenyi Onazi for our next game away to Tanzania next month in the AFCON 2017 qualifiers, I would suggest Onobi to Sunday Oliseh to fill that void.

NDIFREKE EFFIONG (Abia Warriors)
He broke into the team last season as a right back and has improved tremendously after scoring six goals (four free kicks inclusive)last season. No wonder Ladan Bosso has moved him further forward to get the goals for his team.

BRIGHT EJIKE (Heartland FC)
The leading goal scorer for his side so far this season and joint top scorer with eleven strikes, he is sure head above his peers as his ability to withdraw and play from the midfield makes him a utility player.

IBRAHIM SHUAIBU (Giwa FC)
The attacker has improved on his goal ratio this season and as such has been in lethal form with eight goals so far this season.

Nigerian player Chinonso Christian Obiozor celebrates after scoring a goal against Zimbabwe during the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) football match between Zimbabwe and Nigeria for the third and fourth place, in Cape Town on February 1, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE        (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

CHRISTIAN OBIOZOR (Enyimba Int’l)
Since joining Enyimba from Kano Pillars after his transfer imbroglio with the defending Champions, the  former Rangers Int’l player has been very clinical in front of goal with his sixth goal coming against his former employers at Enugu in week 19 from the penalty spot.

TUNDE ADENIJI (Sunshine Stars)
The striker has already scored the same number of goals as last season with his eleven strikes putting him as the joint top-scorer and also his club on the summit of the table in the first stanza.

Boboye

Standout Manager: Kennedy Boboye (Sunshine Stars)

Sunday Oliseh: From the Pundit’s Chair to the Coach’s Dug out.

Yes,I know its been a while since you read from the stable of Halftimeng.com; we have not disappeared; but have taken a little holiday to recharge our batteries in order to serve our teaming readers better. We are working on ensuring that we continue serve you as usual the witty, precise and undiluted reading content that you have come to love from our stable.

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I know that for the last one month or so that we have been away; a lot has happened in football generally; Gonzalo Higuain once again cost Argentina a major trophy,  Chile won its first major football honour, USA won the Women’s World Cup, Cech signed for Arsenal, Falcao got a life line from Jose Mourinho; the Falcons were thrown out from the Women’s World Cup along with their naive coach and finally Stephen Okechukwu Keshi was sacked by the NFF.

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The final major happening in the world of Football brings me where we are today as a footballing nation. Nigerians love their football, a country of close to 200 Million people, that prides itself with the fact that every single man on the street believes in its opinion when it comes to football matters; you have experts working all over the streets of Lagos and you cannot suppress their opinion. A lot has happened over the last one  week or so since it became clear that the Nigerian Football Federation were held in talks with former Super Eagles Captain; Sunday Oliseh to take over the reins of guiding the Senior National side, the Super Eagles for the foreseeable future. This announcement has been met with mixed feelings and as usual Nigerians are divided, in their assessment, opinion and potential way forward. Interestingly, what seems to be the reoccurring decimal for those against his appointment has to do with his supposed lack of experience.

Oliseh scores

For me I have been one that believes that in certain areas of life; experience can be grossly overrated; instead passion, singular direction, purposeful approach coupled with the necessary guidance, support and enabling environment would drive anyone to success. I learnt this in my days in Guaranty Trust Bank; when the management of the bank focused on empowering young officers with little or no experience to start and run business units as against experienced, seasoned staff from within or outside the bank; today this is a recipe that has propelled the bank to the heights that it occupies today. As a country we need to move away from this notion that anyone without the so called cogent experience cannot perform or do the job; little wonder virtually every  job vacancy out there requires people with multiple years of experience.

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There are numerous examples of countries that have made appointments of this nature; don’t get me wrong, but I do realize that this is a big gamble on our part, but we must admit that we have come full circle with most of our local coaches and it was advisable for the NFF to seek for a breathe of fresh air, a new lease of life; a different outlook and perspective to the woes that trail our football. Germany; the current World Champions have led the way in making appointments of this type; Franz Beckenbauer took over the national team immediately after his playing career had ended in the US to lead the team to World Cup glory at Italia 90; Rudi Voller too was appointed years after his playing career had ended without any coaching experience; so also Jurgen Klinsmann; who led Germany to the Semi Finals of the World Cup and today a number of the revolutionary changes he made are reaping fruits today in Germany leading to their triumph in Brazil last year. We can go on and on about such appointments; Costa Rica, who after a World Cup performance that was like the stuff you see in Movies appointed ex international Paolo Wanchope; so also Senegal with Aliou Cisse; all with little or no experience.

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If we do not call our best brains home to develop our football; just like in all other industries where we complain about brain drain; is it the Foreigners who are after ensuring their profit margin is assured that would refocus our football. Sunday Oliseh is not perfect that we must agree and it is imperative that he be brutally honest with himself because the task at hand is a critically tough one. This is not 1994 or 1996; he needs to forget the period when the Super Eagles were the toast of the World; focus on starting from ground zero. Sunday Oliseh talks a good game, we have watched him shine and brighten up our Television sets as a pundit with his incisive analysis; but this is not the comfortable seats of the Television studio, this is the mad murky waters of coaching a Nigerian football team that is at its worst today; his reputation would count for nothing if he is not ready to lead by example and we as football people; be it pundits, writers, journalist, administrators and the ordinary man on the street need to support him.

It is difficult enough possessing the requisite qualification to get a plum job at a European Football Club, but because of the intrigues that go along with that; coupled with the allegations of discrimination against minorities; we should be seeking to embrace our own. We embraced wholeheartedly previous members of the Class of 94 who got their chance to manage the Super Eagles; some failed, some showed they lacked the ability to handle the job; one was successful amid all the controversy. Now we are faced with a new chapter in our football, a time where patience is key and the future is available for grabs; the local league is at its best in many years, its getting better and can always improve; but we must support the reign of Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh with our kind words, firm, constructive criticism and our on wavering support to return the Super Eagles to its exhaulted place in World Football.