Usule strikes late to sink Rivers United
Martins Usule headed in a late winner as Katsina United beat Rivers United 2-1 in an exciting Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest decided on Sunday.
Usule carved out space to head home a bobbling ball on the near post to break down a resolute Rivers United side that for long stages, looked full value for a well-deserved point at a rocking Muhhamadu Dikko (Karkanda) Stadium, Katsina.
The hosts started on the front foot and could have easily put the game to bed in a frenetic opening 15 minutes.
Obinna Eleje opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a cracking effort that flew in off the post sending the home faithful into fits of euphoria.
The ‘Changi Boys’ almost doubled the lead three minutes later but Eleje somehow missed an open goal from two metres out.
It was an unforgivable miss that the hosts were made to rue as the ‘Pride of Rivers’ got back on level terms seconds later.
Emeka Ogbugh plundered the strike and it was a goal of the very highest quality which flew into the corner despite the best efforts of the Katsina United goalkeeper, Danjuma Paul.
The hosts then stepped on the accelerator in search of the second goal but the Rivers United goalkeeper, Emeka Nwabulu was in inspired form as he foiled efforts from Usule, Eleje and Ashadi in a first half of very high quality.
It wasn’t all about the hosts though as the visitors also had their moments in the first period.
Bakari Bamba was denied his second goal of the season by Danjuma in the 33rd minute as his snap shot from a tight angle was spectacularly pushed away for a corner with the visiting bench prematurely celebrating what they felt was a certain goal.
It the first half ebbed and flowed, the second didn’t quite match it in entertainment value.
It was however a compelling stanza which was dominated for large parts by the hosts who kept probing for the winner.
Joshua Agboola thought he had scored in the 56th minute but Olalekan Gabriel produced a last ditch header to give away a corner.
Five minutes later, Nwabulu produced a contender for save of the season, diving to his right to push away Agboola’s free kick from the edge of the Rivers United box.
It was a save of great quality that had some of the home faithful applauding in appreciation.
Nwabulu, who was having the game of his life, then denied substitute, Eric Dufegha who spun brilliantly on a sixpence before firing a fierce goal bound effort from 20 yards.
The hosts however had the last laugh when Nwabulu’s only moment of display of less than immortal status was ruthlessly punished by Usule.
A relieved head coach of Katsina United, Abdullahi Usman Biffo described the game as the toughest his side have played this season as he poured encomiums on his vanquished opponents.
“We just played our toughest match this season,” Biffo told our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng
“Rivers United are among the best (teams in the league); the way they displayed here today, if they continue like this, they are going to get something at the end of the season,” he said.
Technical manager of Rivers United, Eguma Stanley also voiced his sentiments after the game.
“Our boys did well but we could not get the needed result.
“We will learn from this but the performance today (from our boys) should have earned us at least a point,” Eguma said.
Rivers United dropped to 13th on the league standings with 20 points from 15 matches while Katsina United climbed to fouth with 23 points from 16 matches