Guy Kuemian netted the only goal of an underwhelming Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest as Rivers United beat Niger Tornadoes 1-0 in Port Harcourt on Sunday.
The attacker volleyed home a Lukman Mohammed’s cross after the hosts sprang Tornadoes’ offside trap in the 22nd minute.
Victory for the pride of Rivers moves them up to third place on the NPFL standings with seven points while Tornadoes remain bottom of the log with a solitary point from their first three matches.
Sunday’s display by the ‘Pride of Rivers’ was anything but convincing as they had to rely on several heroic stops from goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi in the second half to hold out for what could turn out to be potentially crucial points in the home strait of the season.
In truth, United made life complicated for themselves by fluffing a plethora of chances when cold-bloodedness and precision by their attackers could have ended the game as a contest long before the midway stage of the second half.
Nzube Anaezemba had a shot smothered by the Tornadoes goalkeeper, Aliko Mustapha in the ninth minute before Lukman Mohammed caused despair amongst the home faithful by firing tamely when left unmarked in the visitors’ penalty area.
Anaezemba had another crack at goal in the 20th minute but the inspired Aliko, who had a barnstorming game saved easily.
Unrelenting pressure eventually yielded fruit in the 22nd minute as Kuemian fired home an unstoppable volley with Tornadoes failing horribly in their attempt to play a high line.
Chances were few and far between for the rest of a half that failed to hit the heights as both side struggled for sustained levels of fluency in their passing and movement.
Tornadoes improved dramatically after the break and were extremely unfortunate not to level matters on more than one occasion.
Their best moments arrived in the 55th minute when Ikefe Andrew’s free kick forced Rotimi into an unconventional save and two minutes later when Wakili Musa’s brilliant volley from the resulting corner missed the target by inches.
United continued to create chances but continued to fritter them away with shocking regularity.
Bernard Ovoke smacked a voley against the cross bar in the 61st minute while Aliko produced top drawer saves to deny Mohammed and substitute, Maduabuchi Okereke as the game drew to a close.
United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma was less than impressed with his side’s display and rued the many missed which could have made the win more emphatic.
“It was a very difficult game for us. We never underrated Tornadoes because it is a game of football.
“We planned to win but unfortunately, we did not have a very good game.
“We won but we were not able to string the passes (together the way we usually do).
“My players were jittery and we lost the midfield battles to our opponents and it made them have the upper hand,” he said at the post match press conference.
Tornadoes coach, Bala Abubakar spoke about a game plan which was carried out to perfection against storied opposition.
“Rivers United is a big team representing Nigeria on the continent.
“Our team is seventy percent new and gradually, we are trying to stabilize the team.
“We came here (to Port Harcourt) with a game plan.
“We knew it would be difficult but we gave a very good account of ourselves,” he said.
Rivers United next travel to Nnewi to face FC Ifeanyiubah while Tornadoes next have a home fixture against Wikki Tourists.
Both games will be played on Wednesday.
Rivers United: Sunday Rotimi, Ifeanyi Nweke, Wassa Gabriel, Emeka Atuloma, Festus Austine, Ayobami Asekunowo, Nzube Anaezemba (Weli Christian 82’), Lukman Mohammed, Guy Kuemian (Emeka Ogbugh 57’), Esosa Igbinoba and Ovoke Bernard (Maduabuchi Okereke 68’).
Substitutes not used: Femi Thomas, Zoumana Doumbia, Olalekan Gabriel and Godbless Asamoah.
Niger Tornadoes: Mustapha Aliko, Abiodun Afolabi (Idele Ikhide Ibrahim 50’), Husseini Isah, Bolaji Adeyemo, Ikefe Evans Andrew, Sunday Akinmoladun, Ajoku Blessing Chidebere, Owello Solomon (Ibrahim Babawo Abubakar 54’), Ebenezer Odeyemi, Ifeanyi Okoye and Wakili Musa Abdullahi.
Substitutes not used: Terkaa Melai, Bashar Usman, Attach Christian , Isyaku Iliyasu, Ammeh and Wilfred Angel.
Rivers United: Ayobami Asekunowo (24’) and Gabriel Wassa (86’).
Niger Tornadoes: Bolaji Adeyemi (23’), Ebenezer Odeyemi (62’) and Chidiebere Ajoku (88’).
Red cards: Nil
Goals: Kuemian (22’)