Rivers United came from a goal down to beat Abuja based side, City Strikers FC 4-1 in a wonderfully-open and entertaining pre-season friendly match played at the Goal Project, Abuja on Thursday.
United were stunned when the unheralded Abuja side took the lead inside the opening five minutes following a breath taking counter attack.
That was as good as it would get for the Abuja club as United’s superiority and class shone through in the end.
Stung into action, last season’s Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) runners up responded, with a deadly dose of attacking football that left their opponents spell-bound.
New boy, Daouda Ouattara was the stand out performer as his excellently-taken brace in the 10th and 36th minutes capped a debut to remember.
His first was a fearsome volley, smashed into the top corner from the edge of the box while his second was a work of art; poetry in motion.
Best ‘Messi’ Deemua created space on the left after some nifty footwork that left his marker for dead as he honed in on goal.
The pint-sized midfielder then crossed delightfully for the onrushing Ouattara to produce an intelligently-weighted looping header that left the City Strikers goal keeper shame faced.
The stunning nature of the goal had even some City strikers’ fans applauding as United went into the break 3-1 up following an expertly-taken penalty converted by Chiwendu Ali midway into the first stanza.
The United technical manager, Stanley Eguma rang the changes at the interval, introducing more familiar faces like Sunday Rotimi, Festus Austine, Gabriel Olalekan, Christian Weli, Godwin Obinze, Godbless Asamoah and Bernard Ovoke.
Ovoke quickly imposed himself on the game, dictating the play and carving goal scoring opportunities at will.
He came close to adding a goal scoring contribution in the 52nd minute but watched as his dangerous free kick sailed agonizingly wide.
Shortly before the end, Asamoah provided the coup de grace with a simply audacious finish; chipping the goalkeeper from 35 yards to draw appreciative noises from a healthy crowd.
Speaking after the game, Eguma explained the rationale behind the test game and what he had been able to achieve so far with the ‘Pride of Rivers’ in pre-season.
“Most of the individuals who played today were doing so with the team for the very first time.
“We are trying to ascertain their levels of fitness and see how they (embrace our philosophy).
“That was why we had mostly new players in the first half and the (retained players from last season) play in the second half.
“The integration of the old and new players is extremely important for us,” he told the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng
Rivers United will represent Nigeria in the 2017 Caf Champions League.
United line up two more pre-season friendly
Rivers United will play two more pre-season matches as part of activities to bring players up to speed ahead of a potentially-rigorous 2016/17 season.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ will face Abuja Select FC by 4pm on Friday, November 25 at the Area Three football pitch Abuja.
On Saturday, November 26, United will go toe to toe against Abuja Football College at the training pitch of the Abuja National Stadium by 7am.
Meanwhile, General manager of Rivers United FC, Okey Kpalukwu has expressed satisfaction with the club’s steady build up to the new season.
“We started very late last season because the club was founded just a few days to the start of the new season.
“Things are different now and we have a lot more time to prepare,” he told the club’s official website.