Ogbugh rescues Rivers United 1-1 Akwa United
Emeka Ogbugh headed home a stunning goal to rescue Rivers United from the throes of defeat against a fired-up Akwa United side in a rescheduled Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) game at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ was staring down the barrel after Musa Newman had put Akwa in front early on, bundling home after the Rivers United rear guard failed to effectively clear a Chigozie Chilekwu throw in on the near side.
That goal by Akwa United in the 12th minute was against the run of play as Rivers United had dominated up to that point and probably could have taken the lead had Guy Kuemian been more clinical with a goal scoring opening in the eighth minute.
Stung into action, Rivers United pressed up the pitch and were level almost immediately as Ogbugh headed home off the cross bar following an expertly-taken free kick by the impressive Ali.
The two sides continued to play expansive football as they sought to take the initiative but it was the visitors that carved the next big opening to retake the lead.
A penalty was awarded to them after the referee adjudged that the lively Newman has been upended in the Rivers United box in the 20th minute.
‘Kanu Nwankwo-esque’ forward Alhassan Ibrahim stepped up to take the spot kick but the experienced Sunday Rotimi won the battle of wits, guessing right and standing his ground to deny the languid attacker who attempted to hoodwink the veteran by striking the ball right down the middle of the goal.
It was a first half for the ages as both sides continued to have a go with intent but there was to be no further scoring despite excellent openings created.
Kuemian’s nimble feet created an opening for Lukman Mohammed in the 35th minute but the Rivers United striker panicked and skied his effort into orbit from six yards after doing the hard part of swivelling on a six pence in a crowded penalty area.
Akwa however had the best opportunity to go into the break in front when the irrepressible Newman came face to face with Rotimi.
He however dragged his effort agonizingly wide after beating the goal keeper from a tight angle.
On the stroke of half time, Esosa Igbinoba fired a low shot from close range marginally off target with some of the home fans already celebrating what they thought was a certain goal.
The second half was never going to match the first in terms of intensity, quality and drama but the two sides still ensured the standard didn’t drop too drastically.
Christian Pyagbara fired a tame effort straight at Rotimi from the edge of the box in the 63rd minute while Yusuf Jaiyeola shot wide on two occasions from range either side of the Akwa United striker’s effort.
Ali continued to prove his worth as a left back in form by almost scoring straight from a corner in the 76th minute with Ogbugh also trying his luck from range, eight minutes later as the home side stepped on the accelerator in search of maximum points.
Akwa could have won it late on but Ibrahim shot inches wide from inside the Rivers United box with Rotimi completely beaten by the low strike.
It was a hugely entertaining match but the outcome left both sides pondering what might have been with maximum points clearly the target by either group.
Our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ngattended the post-match press conference attended by the assistant coaches (Willy Udube of Rivers United and Aliyu Zubairu of Akwa United) of the two sides (audio files have been attached).
Akwa United remain in third place on the NPFL standings with 51 points from 31 matches while Rivers United moved up one place to 12th on the log with 41 points from 30 matches.
Rivers United: Sunday Rotimi, Ifeanyi Nweke, Ali Chiwendu, Gabriel Olalekan, Douhadji Joseph, Yusuf Jaiyeola (Christian Weli 88′), Esosa Igbinoba (Efosa Eguakun 70′), Lukman Mohammed, Guy Kuemian (Daniel Israel 71′) Emeka Atuloma and Emeka Ogbugh.
Substitutes not used: Femi Thomas, Zoumana Doumbia, Semiu Liadi and Abdulaye Kanoute.
Akwa United: Olorunleke Ojo, Otobong Effiong, Chigozie Chilekwu, Aremu Afeez, Ariwachukwu Emmanuel, Paterne Counou, Musa Newman (Cyril Olisema 69′), Christian Pyagbara (Gabriel Okechukwu 79′), Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Alhassan Ibrahim.
Substitutes not used: Ishmalia Shagari, Ofem Inah, Meteng Tchukwunte, Christopher Lolo and Hassan Babangida.
Goals: Rivers United: Emeka Ogbugh 14′; Akwa United: Musa Newman 12′.
Photo credit: LMC.