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#RoadToFinal: Champions Dannaz remain the team to beat

Defending champions, Dannaz Football Club have been the most dominant team in the Bet9jaSociaLiga league since making their debut last season, an assertion nobody can disagree with.

Dannaz beat all-comers last season to dethrone hitherto champions, the Saints FC after a keenly contested final against Bravos Knights last December.

So, for the 2019 campaign, the Cedars came in hoping to do better than their successful maiden season when they became just the second team to ever lift the Bet9jaSociaLiga title.

However, halfway through the current campaign, while Dannaz are on course to defend their crown, manager, Danny Nazzal is not a happy man despite guiding his team to a second consecutive playoffs.

But before we reveal why Nazzal is unhappy, how about a recap of how the Cedars performed in the first phase of this season?

Yes, right? Awesome then, let’s get into all the interesting and juicy details of how the holders are still the team to beat in the Liga.

Genesis

The defending champions started their title defence on a rather unlikely way, on a very poor and slow note.

Having dropped just three points the whole of last season, the Cedars dropped more points (six) in their opening four (4) matches this season.

A six-goal thriller against the Royals FC in their season opener, which ended 3-3, was quickly followed by another four-goal encounter, this time a 2-2 draw against whipping boys, All Black FC on matchday two.

Dannaz bounced back to winning ways on MD3 against fierce rivals, Saints with a narrow 1-0 win before going back to their bad habits – a 1-1 draw against Citizens FC.

However, the holders turned things around in their remaining four games, winning all four, scoring ten goals and conceding just one as they sealed their place in the playoff without losing a game.

The Fabulous

The most positive and fabulous thing about the champions at this stage of the competition is the fact that they are the only unbeaten side left in the Bet9jaSociaLiga.

With five wins, three draws and zero losses in their eight matches thus far, the Cedars finished the first phase with the most points; wins and goals scored.

Danny’s men averaged over 2.1 goals per game for a total of 17 goals in eight matches, the most by any team.

Furthermore, their unbeaten status means the holders have in fact only lost once since making their Liga debut back in 2018.

The Farcical

As the defending champions, the Cedars really started the season in an uncharacteristic manner, which was below expectations, leading to more points dropped at the same stage of the Liga than they did last season.

Dannaz dropped six points this campaign, three more than they did the whole of their first season in the Bet9jaSociaLiga.

That’s not all, they also conceded two more goals (seven) than they did.

Star Player

It is difficult to overlook Joshua Obakimi, Dannaz’s star forward, who ended the regular season as the top scorer.

Obakimi emerged as the king of goals in the first phase with seven (7) goals in eight matches, one more than his closest rival and challenger, Olisemeka Esumeh of Raineri, who finished with six (6) goals from six games.

Obakimi’s goals may have been key for the Cedars, but one name deserving of praise is midfielder, Samson Kayode, who has so far been one of the revelations of the season.

Kayode has been the Fabinho of Dannaz, a key figure in Nazzal’s well-drilled side, with the defensive midfielder also chipping in with two outstanding goals.

Coach's Corner

Despite their unbeaten run and top of the log finish, at this stage of the season, Dannaz boss and owner, Nazzal is a very unhappy man.

The highly-rated coach is disappointed by the performance of his boys and says he expected much more from his team.

“I am not impressed due to the fact that we dropped points against Royals and All Blacks at the beginning of the season, ” Nazzal said.

“But we adjusted later on and it’s been okay so far but I must admit I expect (ed) far better from my boys.”

Reminded that his team is still unbeaten, Nazzal added that while their record so far is good, he really expected and wants more.

“Unbeaten is good but again always winning, getting the maximum points and retaining the title is what we want and expect.”

Up Next

Dannaz will have their hands full when they welcome newbies Alimosho at the Playoffs later this month.

The Cedars were one of two sides to beat the Herd in the regular season, but the playoffs are a different ball game entirely as Alimosho are ready to display their title credentials.

In sum, while their second season in the Bet9jaSociaLiga hasn’t been as impeccable as their owner, Danny would have loved, the champions have shown so far with their unbeaten run that they are still the team to beat in the Liga.

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