Pride of Rivers aim to trip Promise Keepers
Football matches involving Rivers United and Akwa United always produce exciting spectacles.
On Thursday, April 12, the two sides will serve off yet another instalment of this fast-developing rivalry and the stakes couldn’t have been any higher.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ will climb to the top half of the table (and go level, on points with their high-flying opponents) with a win on Thursday but claiming maximum points against the ‘Promise Keepers’ never comes easy irrespective of where the contest is decided.
Tutored by ‘Professor of aesthetic football’, Abdul Maikaba, Akwa United is one of the most-feared teams in the division.
The mantra of the Uyo club is straightforward; ‘treat the ball like a piece of Gold’ and make the opposition feel it’s ‘a piece of soap’.
Maikaba, a lifelong FC Barcelona/Pep Gurdiola fan, loves possession-based football, an act he perfected at former club, Wikki Tourists as he led the unheralded Bauchi outfit to a remarkable third-placed finish in his final season in charge.
The experienced trainer will arrive in Port Harcourt with one thing in mind; victory!
That will in itself, represent a monumental feat, as Akwa United have never beaten Rivers United since the merger was announced in February 2016.
Four meetings in the last two seasons between the sides have yielded two defeats and two draws for Thursday’s visitors at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium and Maikaba will be desperate to claim important scalp for obvious reasons.
“Maybe, this will be the first time we will defeat Rivers United,” Maikaba told our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
“I may rest some players but the objective remains the same; we want to win.
“There are no suspensions or injuries in my team.
“Friday Ubong is back from his three match ban and he will start against Rivers United on Thursday,” Maikaba declared.
The soft-spoken trainer has a retinue of stars to call on and the names easily roll off the tongue.
Goalkeeper, Olorunleke Ojo is fast attaining cult-status in Uyo following his awe-inspiring display against Al-Itthihad in the CAF Confederation Cup (he saved three penalties in the shootout of the tie against the Libyan club).
Etim Matthew, Kodjovi Dadzie, (man mountain) Kelly Kester and Denny Nya represent the anchor upon which defensive solidity is built.
An ex-Rivers United boy, Gabriel Wassa is a speed star to be feared while Friday Ubong, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Super Eagles man, Gabriel Okechukwu provide guile and subtlety in the final third.
In Victor Mboama, Akwa have probably the most underrated albeit precociously-talented marksman who can punish many an opposition goalkeeper with little danger lurking.
Rivers United team news
United are down to bare bones and this is probably the worst time to face the star-spangled Akwa.
There was more bad news from the infirmary for technical manager, Eguma Stanley as midfielder, Kofi Rolland was carried off with an ankle injury in Rivers United’s 1-2 loss to Katsina United at the Karkanda Stadium, Katsina on Sunday.
Club captain, Festus Austine, midfielder, Ochowechi ‘Oche’ Salefu and striker, Guy Kuemian are likely to miss Thursday’s game no thanks to varying degrees of indisposition.
Right back, Markson Ojobo is also likely to miss out while big striker, Osita Chikere who did not make the trip to Katsina and is also unlikely to play against the Uyo club.
Eguma also explained to our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng that his side also faces other constraints apart from the lengthy injury list.
“There is so much fatigue and injuries in the team,” Eguma said.
“We played a game against Heartland on Wednesday (April 4) in Port Harcourt and the next day we had to commence a two-day trip to Katsina (approximately 916 km/569 miles, 495 nautical miles) by road.
“After the game against Katsina United on Sunday (April 8) we had to start the trio back to Port Harcourt the next day (April 9).
“As I speak to you (Tuesday, April 10), the team is still not in Port Harcourt as they had to stop over in Enugu because the trip by road is so long and hectic.
“And then, on Sunday (April 15), we will play another league game against Nasarwawa United.
“The players are all fatigued and it is hard to get them give their best under such conditions,” he said.
Rivers United’s joint-top scorer, Emeka Ogbugh, who has plundered three goals this season, also spoke to our media team (audio file has been attached) ahead of Thursday’s game.
Game: Rivers United versus Akwa United
Competition: Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL)
Match day: Thirteen (13)
Current positions of respective clubs on the NPFL log: Rivers United: Thirteenth (13th); Akwa United: Third (3rd)
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2018
Venue: Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt
Time: 4 pm
Live coverage of this game will be available on Twitter (@RiversUnitedFC) and our official WhatsApp channel from 3:00 pm on match day.
Form guide (last five NPFL matches)
Rivers United (LWLLD)
Rivers United 1-1 FC Ifeanyiubah (H)
Rivers United 0-3 Wikki Tourists (A)
Rivers United 2-3 Lobi Stars (A)
Rivers United 2-0 Heartland (H)
Rivers United 2-1 Katsina United (A)
Akwa United (LDWWL)
Akwa United 1-0 Lobi Stars (A)
Akwa United 1-0 Nasarawa United (H)
Akwa United 2-1 Heartland (H)
Akwa United 1-1 Abia Warriors (H)
Akwa United 0-2 Katsina United (A)
Details (Specific breakdown)
Game one: Rivers United 1-0 Akwa United (NPFL; Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt; May 18, 2016; NPFL)
Game two: Akwa United 1-2 Rivers United (Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo. September 2, 2016)
Game three: Akwa United 1-1 Rivers United (Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo. January 18, 2016)
Game four: Rivers United 1-1 AkwaUnited (NPFL; Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt; July 26, 2017; NPFL)
((This next story contains photos of a graphic nature; viewer discretion is strongly advised)
Eguma in auto crash
Rivers United technical manager, Eguma Stanley was involved in an auto accident on Wednesday, April 9.
The accident occurred in Enugu occurred at around 9:30 pm.
Eguma’s official vehicle was run into, at full speed, by a Tricyle (Keke Napep).
The driver of the Tricycle and his passenger suffered serious injuries but Eguma was unhurt following the crash.
Recounting the unfortunate incident to the official Rivers United website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng, Eguma said he was still in shock.
“I have never experienced anything like this before,” Eguma said.
“It happened so fast with the driver of the (Tricycle) driving into our path from a sharp bend, against traffic and without sounding his horn.
“Even though, I was not at fault for the accident, I took the two injured persons in the (Tricycle) to a Hospital in Enugu where urgent medical attention was provided at my expense.
“I am happy that no lives were lost,” he said.