The 2021/22 NPFL season came to an end with Rivers United crowned as champions for the first time since the merger of Dolphins FC and Sharks FC. The Port Harcourt based side finished the season with 77 points. It is the highest point tally in the history of topflight football in Nigeria.

Champions – Rivers United

The season was concluded in 213 days, the shortest since the League Management Company took charge of the league in 2013. Rivers United were top of the table for 167 of those days, accounting for over 78% of the duration of the league. In terms of matchdays, Rivers United didn’t leave the top of the table from MD14 till the end of the season.

MFM FC were bottom of the table at the mid-point of the season. They didn’t leave the bottom two from MD6 to the end of the season. Kano Pillars started the season 19th on the log and finished in the 19th spot.   

Goals

There is a steady increase in the number of goals scored in the NPFL. Excluding the 2020/21 season, the 2021/22 season had the highest average in the last 5 seasons.

Goals per match in the last 5 seasons.

Rivers United scored 58 goals, 8 goals more than any other team and two times more than bottom placed MFM FC (26 goals). Plateau United & Abia Warriors were the only other teams with 50+ goals in the season. MFM FC were the only team that failed to score 30 goals in the season.

The top three teams were the only teams that conceded fewer than 30 goals in the season. Rivers United only allowed 24 goals, less than half the number of goals conceded by bottom placed MFM FC.

There were 288 goal scorers in the season. Twenty different players scored for Shooting Stars in the 21/22 season. It is the highest by any team in the last 5 seasons. Rangers and the relegated duo of Kano Pillars and MFM FC had the fewest (12).

The highest goal scorers for Akwa United recorded 4 goals each. It equals the record set by MFM FC in 20/21. MFM FC’s top scorer for the season scored 6 goals in the season, 2 more than the previous top scorer did 20/21. Kano Pillars, Niger Tornadoes and Shooting Stars also had 6 goals for their top scorers.

Chijioke Akuneto emerged the highest goal scorer for the season with 19 goals scored from 38 games played. Victor Mbaoma and Yusuf Abdulazeez came closest with 16 goals with the former missing the opportunity to finish the season and add more goals to his tally. Abia Warriors’ Valentine Odoh had the best goals per appearance ratio (0.58) and had the best goal frequency (144 minutes).

Top Scorers

  • 19 – Chijioke Akuneto (Rivers United)
  • 16 – Victor Mbaoma (Enyimba FC)
  • 16 – Yusuf Abdulazeez (Gombe United)
  • 15 – Valentine Odoh (Abia Warriors)
  • 14 – Ishaq Rafiu (Rivers United)

Most Braces

  • 5 – Chijioke Akuneto (Rivers United)
  • 3 – Victor Mbaoma (Enyimba FC)
  • 3 – Yusuf Abdulazeez (Gombe United)
  • 3 – Valentine Odoh (Abia Warriors)

Hattricks

  • Chijioke Akuneto (Rivers Utd) vs Akwa United (MD20)
  • Victor Mbaoma (Enyimba FC) vs Kwara United (MD33)
  • Andy Okpe (Remo Stars) vs Niger Tornadoes (MD38)

Appearances

Only four players started every game for their clubs in the 2021/22 NPFL. Midfielder Kelechi Chimezie played every minute for Gombe United, equating 3420 minutes of football, excluding adding minutes (~152mins). Kano Pillars defender Abdullahi Musa was the only other NPFL player that played every minute in the season.

Chijioke Akuneto (3006 mins) and Adebayo Abayomi (3413 mins) started every game for Rivers United and Remo Stars respectively.

Including other competitions (Continental & AITEO Cup), no player featured more than Kazie Enyinnaya. The Rivers United right back made a total of 42 starts and appearances for the club in all competitions. Kazie played 3763 minutes for the champions, thus breaking the record set by Silas Nwankwo who played 3540 minutes for Nasarawa United in the 2020/21 season.

  • 3763 minutes – Kazie Enyinnaya (RIV)
  • 3,600+ minutes – Abdullahi Musa (PIL) 40+ starts/apps (pending AITEO R32 line up)
  • 3593 minutes – Adebayo Abayomi (REM)

Niger Tornadoes listed 57 players in all competitions in 2021/22. They and three other teams were the only clubs with 50+ players listed.

  • 57 – Niger Tornadoes
  • 54 – Heartland FC
  • 53 – Akwa United
  • 52 – Lobi Stars

At the other end, Remo Stars listed just 34 players and ensured every of the 34 players tasted action in the season. No other club had a 100% player utilization. The 5 clubs with less than 40 players were in contention for a continental spot towards the end of the season.

  • 34 – Remo Stars
  • 37 – Kwara United
  • 39 – Rivers United
  • 39 – Rangers FC
  • 39 – Enyimba FC

Streaks

Rivers United had the longest unbeaten run of the season. They went 12 matches unbeaten between Matchday 12 and 23. Plateau United and Remo Stars came closest with an 11-match unbeaten run. The trio finished top three on the log.

Relegated duo of MFM FC and Heartland FC had the longest run without a win. They went 7 matches without a win and were the only teams without consecutive wins in the NPFL.

Plateau United won 5 consecutive matches from MD9 to MD13; no team had more. MFM FC and Lobi Stars recorded 5 consecutive losses in the season.

Rivers United kept 20 clean sheets in the NPFL season, 6 of which were away from home. No other team had more clean sheets. Remo Stars were 2nd best with 19 clean sheets with Rangers (18) in 3rd. Rangers and Akwa United also had 6 clean sheets on the road.

Penalty Kicks

A total of 104 penalty kicks were awarded in the 2021/22 NPFL, 5 more than the previous season. The conversion ratio dropped from 85% (20/21) to 77%. Matches involving Dakkada FC produced the highest number of penalty kick awarded (16), at least 2 more than matches involving other teams. 13 penalty kicks were converted in matches involving Dakkada FC, at least 1 more than matches involving other teams.

Rivers United were awarded 10 penalty kicks in the season. They are the first team to get double digit penalty kicks since we started keeping such records in 2018. Nasarawa United and Lobi Stars were awarded 9 penalty kicks each.

Kwara United had the poorest penalty kick conversion ratio of the season – scoring just 1 of the 4 kicks awarded to the team. The 25% conversion ratio is the lowest since Abia Warriors failed to convert any penalty (0/2) in the 2018 season. Plateau United were the only other team that had a conversion ratio of less than 50% in the season. They scored just 2 of the 5 penalties awarded to the team.

26 penalties were missed in the season with Lobi Stars accounting for the most (4). Rivers United, Sunshine Stars, Remo Stars, MFM FC, Katsina United and Abia Warriors were the only teams with a 100% conversion ratio in the season. Chinonso Okonkwo (Lobi Stars), Jesse Akila (Plateau United) and Ubong Friday (Akwa United) were the only players that missed more than penalty kicks in the season. Femi Thomas (Heartland) produced two saves from the spot within 6 minutes with Ubong Friday the taker.  Of the 26 missed penalties, 15 were on target and saved by the goalkeeper. Galadima Mohammed (Wikki Tourists) and Suraj Ayeleso (Plateau United) made the most saves (3).  

Rivers United team with the State Governor – Gov. Wike

For the new 2022/23 season, teams with longest unbeaten runs, shortest winless runs, 100% penalty conversion, fewest penalty conceded, most clean sheets and fewer squad changes would have higher chances of finishing in continental places.

Chibuzor Amos
For DigitSport / OptaNGR

Data & Photo source: NPFL.ng, @LMCNPFL, @OptaNGR, @RiversUnitedFC NPFL Data Collation Group, Personnel Archives
Contributors: Samuel Areo, Babajide Seyi, Endurance Ogbemudia, Afis Jinadu, Ayoola Adeleke, Usman Ademola and Fisayo Dairo.
Reach out via email (optangr@gmail.com) for any specific stats on the 2021/22 NPFL