Rivers United outclass Kano Pillars
Bakary Bamba and Guy Kuemian scored either side of half time to inspire Rivers United to a richly-deserved 2-1 victory over Kano Pillars in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on Sunday.
In-form Junior Lokosa scored Pillars’ consolation just after the half hour mark as the ‘Pride of Rivers’ overpowered ‘Sai Masu Gida’ 2-1 in a compelling contest decided at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
It was billed as the ‘star match’ of match day three of the NPFL and it didn’t disappoint.
The big news before kickoff was that veteran goal keeper, Sunday Rotimi would make his season’s debut following a complete recovery from a groin injury that side-lined him for United’s two opening NPFL games against El-kanemi Warriors and Plateau United.
Ali Chiwendu replaced Zoumana Doumbia at left back while Guy Kuemian, Olalekan Gabriel and Markson Ojobo all got the nod to start following substitute roles and exclusion from the match day squad in the 0-2 defeat to champions, Plateau United four days earlier.
United started briskly and should have taken the lead on 18 minutes when Prince Aggrey found space on the right but could only hit the side netting with the Pillars’ goalkeeper, David Obiazor doing well to narrow the angle.
The pressure from the home side continued in relentless fashion and barely 60 seconds after Aggrey failed to score, United took the lead in exhilarating fashion.
An enthralling team move saw Ojobo break free on the right hand channel and the marauding right back proceeded to deliver an inch-perfect cross to the onrushing Bakari Bamba who connected sweetly with a first time volley that flew into the top corner past a shell-shocked Obiazor.
It was a world-class goal that saw the stadium erupt in mass hysteria but Pillars were back on level terms, 14 minutes later, albeit against the run of play.
An uncharacteristic moment of defensive incoordination culminated in a badly-cleared header falling in the path of marksman extraordinaire, Lokosa.
The forward could barely believe his luck and proceeded to fire a fearsome effort into the roof of Rotimi’s net.
There was to be no more scoring in an exciting first half that lived up to the pre-match hype but the hosts knew that they had to up the ante in the second half to amass maximum points.
The second stanza will go down in the annals of the history of Rivers United FC as one of the most exciting and high octane from the hosts’ perspective.
Kuemian scored the game’s decisive goal on 56 minutes but United could and should have scored a lot more than the tow they managed on the night.
In a half where Pillars were restricted to desperate defending for the majority, Elum Sochima, Chiwendu Ali, Prince Aggrey, Bamba and man-of-the-match, Ochowechi ‘Oche’ Salefu all missed glaring chances to make the score more lopsided.
United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma spoke to the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng after the game revealing that his half time team talk proved decisive in the end.
“We studied our opponents and at half time, we discussed their loop holes and the areas where they were giving us problems,” Eguma said.
“I spoke to the players and told them that we had to up our game and they heeded to the instructions,” he explained.
Pillars’ captain, Chinedu Udoji also discussed his side’s display in the post-match press conference.
“Congratulations to Rivers United for their three points but we (Kano Pillars) did not play well today.
“That is the honest truth because this is not how we play.
“Today (Sunday) was not a good day for us; we just have to go home and plan and focus on our next game,” he said.
Sunday’s result means that United move up to eighth on the log with six points from a possible nine while Pillars have amassed four points from their first three matches.
Team’s Statistics: Rivers United versus Kano Pillars
Rivers United: Sunday Rotimi, Festus Austin, Gabriel Olalekan, Prince Aggreh (John Bello Ikeleji 90′), Eliminate Sochima, Bamba Bakari( Christian Weli 87′), Ali Chiwendu, Guy Kuemian (Malachi Ohawume 77′), Sunday Afolabi, Markson Ojobo and Oche Ochowechi
Substitutes not used: Robert Cole, Israel Daniel, Zoumana Doumbia and Otekpa Eneji.
Kano Pillars: David Obiazor, Joel Djondang( Ojebisi Adewale 72′), Fahad Usman, Emmanuel Anyanwu, Chinedu Udoji, Sikiru Kamal(Mustapha Ibrahim 72′), manu Garba, Jamil Mohammed, Nzube Anaezemba (Yusuf Maigoro 68’), Nwangua Nyima and Junior Lokosa
Substitutes not used: Danladi Isah, Abdullahi Juli, Chris Madaki and Adamu Hassan
Yellow card: Kano Pillars: Ojebisi Adewale 80′
Rivers United: Bamba Bakari 19′ (Assist: Markson Ojobo )
Guy Kuemian 56′ (Assist: Oche Ochowechi)
Kano Pillars: Junior Lokosa 33′.