ValueJet Cup 2023: Sporting Lagos impress in matchday 1

ValueJet Cup 2023: Sporting Lagos impress in matchday 1
Credit: @SportingLagos Twitter

The 2023 ValueJet Cup kicked off on Friday, 4 August, at the Remo Stars Stadium in Ikenne, Ogun State.

The pre-season tourney was organized to support the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) clubs in their preparations ahead of the domestic and continental league season.

Three fixtures took place on the opening day:

  • Remo Stars vs Kwara Utd – 9 AM
  • Heartland FC vs Sporting Lagos – 2 PM
  • Shooting Stars vs Beyond Limits – 4 PM

The first match saw Remo Stars square off against Kwara United in a fiercely contested encounter that ended 1-1 apiece.

The second match saw high-flying Sporting Lagos  emerge 3-2 winners over Heartland FC of Owerri. The champions of the Naija Super 8 continue their impressived form.

Meanwhile the last fixture of the day saw Shooting Stars battle Beyond Limits, an academy side, for all three points, the match ended 1-1 apiece.

ValueJet Cup: As it Happened in Matchday 1

Remo Stars vs Kwara United

The match started on a bad note for Kwara United as Muritala Dagbo was dismissed for a dangerous foul on Remo Stars' Sikiru Alimi in the 14th minute.

Remo Stars with an early one-man advantage began to control proceedings but failed to make the most of the early advantage as Kwara United battled with ten men to score the first goal of the match.

A fine cross from Musa Abdulafeez down the right met Ikenna Offor who headed the ball home for the opener in the 42nd minute to give Kwara United the lead at the break.

In the second half, Daniel Ogunmodede's side continued their dominance and finally made it count from an Alimi Sikiru cool strike inside the area to draw level for Remo Stars in the 57th minute.

Kwara United showed resilience and kept their composure, thwarting every attack from Remo Stars as the Ikenne club found no answer, settling for a frustrating draw from the gallant ten-men Kwara United side.

Kwara United defender, Musa Afeez won the Man of the match award in the first game of the tournament for his brilliant showing against Remo Stars' attackers, and also got himself a ₦100,000 reward as promised by the organizers of the award for every man of the match winner.

Heartland vs Sporting Lagos

The thrill began early in the game as both sides tried to get the first goal.

Heartland's Agucho Ugochukwu handled the ball with his hand and the referee pointed to the spot.

Sporting Lagos drew the first blood, scoring from the spot in the 11th minute through Isaac Annor.

The rest of the half witnessed no further action as both sides remained resolute at the back.

The second half brought thrills, goals and great action as Sporting Lagos continued to dominate Heartland.

Udeozor Ikechukwu brought down Shaibu Abdulrazaq in the box in the 51st minute to give Sporting Lagos their second penalty of the day.

Emeka Nwokeji made no mistakes, dispatching the spot kick to make it 2-0 for the NPFL newcomers.

Heartland, now chasing a goal to draw themselves back into the game, continued pressuring the Sporting Lagos defense.

In the 66th minute, there was a card to Sporting Lagos goalkeeper, Agbor Ekoi after a cynical foul on Omaka Fabian, and a penalty to Heartland. Arum Kingsley scored from the spot to make it 1-2.

Reduced Sporting Lagos continued to fancy their chances of scoring a third goal to kill off the game, and got rewarded for their good composure and decisiveness upfront as they got their third penalty of the match. Emeka Nwokeji got his brace from the spot, scoring the third goal for Sporting Lagos in the ValueJet Cup in the 86th minute.

As the match was entering its last minutes, Heartland pulled a goal back but it was not enough. Sporting Lagos sealed a 2-3 victory over Heartland to go top of Group A.

Shooting Stars vs Beyond Limits

This match was the last kick-off of the day at 4 pm with the only none NPFL side in the competition.

Both teams matched each other toe-to-toe in the first ten minutes of the game as the two teams battled for who gets ahead in the match.

Beyond Limits however stunned the NPFL side as Onyebuchi Obasi put his team ahead in the 16th minute from a fine strike inside the area that beat Ovunda in goal for Shooting Stars.

The academy boys held on to their lead to finish the first-half on top.

In the second half, Beyond Limits started the better side and even got a penalty in the 55th minute which their first scorer Obasi missed.

The miss will come to haunt the academy team in the 80th minute as Shooting Stars' determination to draw level paid off. Kayode Oke scored to make it 1-1.

Neither team could find the winner as both sides sought for the winning goal. The two teams settled for a point to record the second stalemate of matchday 1.

ValueJet Cup Incentives

In a significant boost to the tournament’s appeal, the organizers took to their Twitter handle to reveal that each participating club would be awarded ₦500,000

This financial injection serves as a commendable gesture of support for the clubs as they geared up for intense competition.

However, the real motivation lies in the generous cash prizes reserved for the top-performing teams.

The winners will take home a staggering sum of ₦2 million which marks a remarkable 100% increase from the previous year’s winner, Remo Stars.

Last year’s champions, Remo Stars, lightened the inaugural edition which set the stage for an even fiercer competition this time around.

For the runners-up, they will take home ₦1.5 million, a good incentive to spur participating teams unto challenging for a place in the finals.

Furthermore, the third-placed team will receive a sum of ₦1 million adding an extra layer of motivation for the teams.

The place of ValueJet in the pre-season calender of Nigerian football

The ValueJet Cup has quickly earned its place as an essential pre-season tournament in Nigerian football. It is providing a growing platform for clubs to fine-tune their skills, test strategies, and give their new signings a chance to integrate into their new clubs.

The ValueJet Cup event will also give participating clubs the needed opportunity to gain momentum for the upcoming season.

Fans, players and organizers are thrilled towards the intense battles that have unfolded and will continue to unfold in the course of the tournament.

Not forgetting the incentives Man of the Match winners have to receive from Optimus Bank which are the sponsors of “Man of the Match award” as football excellence and competitive spirit continue to take center stage in this thrilling tournament at the Remo Stars Stadium in Ikenne, Ogun State.

This article was most recently revised and updated 11 months ago

Joseph is a freelance writer who spends most of his time writing engaging football contents. Based in Nigeria, Joseph is a die-hard Real Madrid fan with over 8 years experience in the sports betting space. He has covered football match previews, predictions, and news across leagues in Africa and Europe.