Salefu saves Rivers United’s blushes
Oche Salefu scored a brilliant goal to rescue a point for Rivers United in a 1-1 draw with FC Ifeanyiubah FC in a feisty Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) clash that produced two red cards.
FC Ifeanyiubah shot into the lead at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt in the 65th minute when Onyekachi Chidume converted a penalty, sending substitute goalkeeper, Robert Cole the wrong way.
United however hit back with four minutes remaining via Salefu’s sumptuous finish following good work by Osita Chikere, four minutes from time, as the hosts settled for a share of the spoils.
In a first half of few clear cut opportunities, the hosts were marginally better and could have taken the lead in the ninth minute when Emeka Ogbugh’s crafty attempt from a tight angle hit the side netting.
Seven minutes after the restart, United almost put their noses in front following a delightful interchange of passes between Osita and Salefu with the latter just failing to beat the FC Ifeanyiubah goalkeeper, Bamba Drissa from close range.
The game’s turning point arrived in the 64th minute when the Rivers United goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi received a straight red card for a lunge on the lively FC Ifeanyiubah goalkeeper, Paschal Seka.
It was a moment to forget for the usually calm and collected veteran as Seka was always second best to get to the ball in the United penalty area.
Rotimi was sent off and Bernard Ovoke was duly sacrificed for reserve goalkeeper, Cole.
Cole’s first task was to pick the ball out of his net as Chidume calmly sent him the wrong way from 12 yards.
United were staring the barrel, down to 10 men and trailing at home for the second time in the league this season.
The lads from Port Harcourt are however made of stern stuff and refused to go down with a whimper.
Purposeful, consistent attacking play culminated in Salefu’s delightful equalizer with the clock running down after the visitors had been reduced to ten men following Sadiq Abdulrazak’s dismissal for a second bookable offence in the 80th minute.
United almost claimed a stoppage time winner but Bamba produced an extraordinary stop to deny Osita at the death.
Technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma expressed disappointment with the result but praised his charges for fighting back to claim a point at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
“It was a game we prepared to win knowing that our opponents are also a very strong side but we unfortunately could not get the three points at stake,” Eguma said in a chat with our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
“We fought very hard; the players put up a good effort and created a lot of good goal scoring opportunities but we couldn’t convert them.
“In the second half, the penalty we conceded due to our goalkeeper’s error put us in a difficult situation in the game.
“It affected our game plan but I will also commend the effort of the boys for fighting back to equalize and getting a point,” he said.
FCIU’s head coach, Ladan Bosso also spoke to our media team (audio file has been attached) voicing his sentiments about his objectives for the rest of the season.
The draw sees United move up one place on the NPFL standings as they now occupy fifth place with 17 points from 11 matches while FC Ifeanyiubah sit in 11th spot with 14 points from 11 matches.
Match Statistics: Rivers United versus FC Ifeanyiubah.
Rivers United: Sunday Rotimi, Markson Ojobo, Doumbia Zoumana, Festus Austine, Gbadebo Sampson, Godwin Obinze, Bamba Bakari (Malachi Ohawume 77′) Emeka Ogbugh, Ovoke Bernard( Robert Cole 61′), Oche Salefu and Osita Chikere.
Substitutes not used: Balogun Akeem, Guy Kuemian, Obomate Frederick, Bello Ikeleji and Christian Weli.
FC Ifeanyiubah: Bamba Drissa, Nwenyi Ebuka, Wasiu Jimoh, Chidume Onyekachi, Osia Felix, Msonter Tony, Sadiq Abdulrazak, Umar Faruq (Jimoh Gbadamosi 83′),Anyanwu Daberechi, Awazie Ekene, and Seka Pascal (Yaya Kone 67′).
Substitutes not used: Tambe Charles, Suraj Sadiq, Adeboye Gabriel, Saviour Francis and Huan John.
Rivers United :Festus Austine 78′. FC Ifeanyiubah : Nwenyi Ebuka 90+3.
Rivers United: Sunday Rotimi 59′
FC Ifeanyiubah : Sadiq Abdulrazak 80′
Rivers United: Oche Salefu 82′
FC Ifeanyiubah : Onyekachi Chidume 65′ (Pen).