Goals from Guy Kuemian, Emeka Ogbugh and Chiwendu Ali proved decisive for Rivers United in their 3-1 victory over Wikki Tourists on match day 31 of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
United, under pressure before kick-off, following a 0-1 reverse in their last home fixture in the NPFL against Sunshine Stars started Sunday’s game with poise, purpose and on the front foot.
An early goal looked likely following such an enterprising start and it was no real surprise when Kuemian headed the ‘Pride of Rivers’ in front in deserved fashion in the 10th minute following an expertly-delivered cross by Ali.
Both sides then traded chances at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium Port Harcourt in an exciting opening period but it was the hosts that extended their lead in spectacular fashion on the stroke of half time.
With little danger lurking and the referee poised to bring the first half to a close Ogbugh produced an outrageous moment of unadulterated quality which has now gone down in Rivers United folklore.
He met a Lukman Mohammed cross with an unstoppable volley into the top right hand corner from just outside the penalty area, an absolute thunderbolt of exquisite technique which saw the home fans erupt in massive hysteria.
It was a goal that produced catharsis for many following the pent up frustrations and tension amongst the home faithful from the past few days following the morale-shattering home defeat to Sunshine Stars four days earlier.
Wikki are however made of stern stuff; the Tourists stepped on the accelerator in the second half and got due reward five minutes after the restart when Abubakar Lawal netted to hurl his side right back into the contest.
United’s goalkeeper, Abiodun Akande suffered a horrific leg break as he unsuccessfully tried to keep out Lawal’s effort.
He will not play again this season.
That incident produced a hushed atmosphere inside the stadium with some of the United players and members of the coaching staff visibly breaking down in tears.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ however responded like gladiators, pushing forward with intent and winning a penalty after Kuemian was fouled in the Wikki box soon after Akande was driven to hospital in an ambulance.
Ali never misses from 11 metres and stroked his effort low and hard into Sani Haliru’s right hand corner as United promptly restored their two-goal cushion.
United had several opportunities to add to their lead but profligacy by Ogbugh and Mohammed meant there was to be no more scoring in the event-filled game.
After the contest, Rivers United chief coach Willy Udube addressed the media (audio files attached) in a parley attended by our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
The win moved United to 14th place on the NPFL standings with 40 points from 29 matches while the Tourists who have played two games more now occupy 15th place, also with 40 points.
Abiodun Akande (Sunday Rotimi 52′), Gabriel Olalekan, Douhadji Joseph, Ifeanyi Nweke, Ali Chiwendu, Emeka Atuloma, Esosa Igbinoba (Yusuf Jaiyeola 90′), Christian Weli, Lukman Mohammed, Emeka Ogbugh, and Guy Kuemian (John Odumegwu 73′).
Substitutes not used: Semiu Liadi, Daniel Israel, Efosa Eguakun, and Zoumana Doumbia.
Emeka Nwabulu (Sani Haliru 46′), Mustapha Ibrahim, Waziri Christopher, Harrison Madu, Ambrose Peter, Abdullahi Musa, Abubakar Lawal, Ishmael Bagayan (Richard Jonathan 47′), Chinedu Onyelonu, Victor Alegbe, and Ajoku Chidiebere .
Substitutes not used: Chukwudi Samuel, Idris Gada, Musa Mumbarak and Anyanwu Nneoma.
Rivers United: Christian Weli 66′.
Wikki Tourists: Ambrose Peter 84′.
Rivers United: Guy Kuemian 7, Emeka Ogbugh 45+2, Ali Chiwendu 60′.
Wikki Tourists: Abubakar Lawal 50′.
Photo credit: LMC