FCIU, Rivers United share spoils in Nnewi
Rivers United continued their impressive start to the 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season with a hard-fought 0-0 draw with FC Ifeanyiubah in Nnewi on Wednesday.
United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma made wholesale changes to the side that beat Niger Tornadoes 1-0 on Sunday and his alterations proved a master stroke as the Pride of Rivers claimed an important point at the FC Ifeanyiubah Stadium.
Femi Thomas started in goal ahead of experienced stalwart, Sunday Rotimi and it turned out to be an inspired decision as the former Enyimba man, on more than one occasion, kept his side in the contest with outrageous saves and bold decisions.
Nzube Anaezemba was also rested while Togolese international defender, Yaovi Douhadji was included in a Rivers United match day squad for the first time this season.
The hosts dominated the game and should have won but missed several wonderful opportunities while the visitors, who produced a defensive masterclass, seemed extremely ecstatic with the point in the end.
Prince Aggreh missed a sitter from close range in the seventh minute after he was set up on a plate by King Osanga whose pinpoint cross from the left completely opened up the Rivers United defence.
The home side continued to enjoy the better openings and almost made their advantage count in the 23rd minute Stephen Eze planted a free header wide from close range off a corner.
Six minutes later, the hosts came even closer to taking the lead through Jimoh Oni who headed inches wide off another excellent delivery from the flanks, this time from former Warri Wolves captain, Goodluck Onamado.
United offered little goal threat as they were restricted to long range attempts.
Emeka Atuloma and Esosa Igbinoba produced two of such efforts in the 31st and 38th minutes but the FCIU captain and goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa mopped up with minimal fuss.
Just before the break, a shocking error by the United captain, Festus Austin almost opened the door for the hosts but Aggreh was denied by a Gabriel Olalekan goal line clearance.
A few seconds before that incident, United had almost snatched an unlikely lead at the other end when Atuloma headed tamely at Ezenwa after Ovoke’s delivery off a corner caused commotion in the FCIU box.
FCIU eventually had the ball in the back of the United net in the 52d minute but Kone Yaya’s effort was correctly chalked off for offside. The hosts were signalling their intent to take the game by the scruff of the neck and continued to ask attacking questions.
Substitute, Ifeanyi Onuigbo struck a free kick narrowly over the bar from 25 yards in the 73rd minute as the Anambra Warriors turned the screw.
Wave after wave of FCIU attack was repelled by a dogged Rivers United rear guard with Valentine Nwabili’s goal-bound free kick beaten out at the death by the irrepressible Thomas.
United’s Eguma was satisfied with the performance of his charges but insisted his side was set up to snatch maximum points on the day.
“My plan was to win. I know FC Ifeanyi FC very well and know they have a strong team.
“I have been keeping tabs on their team and their performances and the game plan was to launch our own attacks to curtail their forays upfront.
“We were able to do that but we came under severe pressure in the second half but I commend my players for not wilting under the face of ceaseless attacks,” Eguma said at the post match press conference.
His opposite number, Yaw Preko also took the time to review the game.
“We created a lot of chances. I told my players that if they were able to get a goal, that will be the end of the game.
“We tried; the boys gave their best but the game just didn’t go our way,” he said.
Rivers United have now moved up to second on the NPFL standings with eight points from four matches while FCIU slip to 14th on the log with four points from four matches.
FC Ifeanyiubah: Ezenwa Ikechukwu, Nwabili Valentine, Onamado Goodluck, Akakem Onyekachi, Eze Stephen, Medrano Tamen, Kone Yaya (Seka Pascal 62’), Luamba Ngoma, Osanga King (Alberico Da Silva 55’ ), Aggreh Prince (and Onuigbo Ifeanyi 70’) and Oni Jimoh.
Substitutes not used: Okafor Uche, Kojo Baah, Ikenna Hillary and Ikeokwu Patrick
Rivers United: Femi Thomas, Ojobo Markson, Zoumana Doumbia, Emeka Atuloma, Olalekan Gabriel, Festus Austine, Ovoke Bernard (Bolaji Sakin 67’), Lukman Mohammed (Aliassou Sanou 90’) Emeka Ogbugh (Maduabuchi Okereke 76’), Esosa Igbinoba and Weli Christian.
Substitutes not used: Sunday Rotimi, Douhadji Joseph, Guy Kuemian Venance and Wassa Gabriel.
Rivers United: Femi Thomas (17’), Esosa Igbinoba (21’),
FC Ifeanyiubah: Medrano Tamen (60’).
Red cards: Nil