Guy Kuemian’s well-taken second-half goal proved decisive as Rivers United got their 2018 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) campaign off to the perfect start.
The Pride of Rivers won 1-0 against El-Kanemi Warriors in a wonderfully-open contest Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt on Sunday.
Kuemian latched onto a perfect through ball from debutant, Samuel Ganda on 67 minutes to smack unerringly past the El-Kanemi Warriors goalkeeper and captain, George Micahel.
El Kanemi Warriors, easy on the eye with possession-based football, had their moments in both halves but profligacy proved the undoing of the “Borno Army” for most parts of a compelling contest.
Mathias Samuel should have broken the deadlock in the 38th minute but inexplicably shot into the orbit when he should, at the very least, have made the Rivers United goal keeper, Robert Cole earn his stripes.
Bello Musa also came close for the visitors shortly after half time but the hosts slowly began to gain a foothold in the game with Samuel Akinbinu planting a tame header straight at goalkeeper, Michael after Chiwendu Ali delivered a pin point cross from the left.
Isiaka Olawale should have equalized for the Warriors on 77 minutes but the veteran badly miscued his effort from close range when he found himself unmarked in the United penalty area.
El Kanemi had a late chance to level matters after Christian Weli uncharacteristically lost the ball in midfield but Sule Mohammed somehow dragged his shot wide after doing the hard work of carving out space and shooting past Cole in the United goal.
Ochowechi ‘Oche’ Salefu had a shot cleared off the line in stoppage time before the referee called a halt to proceedings.
El Kanemi’s captain, Michael cut a disappointed figure at the post match press conference as he told assembled media that failure to convert the numerous chances that came their way cost them dear in the end.
“I think we wasted our chances and that’s how the game of football is.
“They had their chances and converted one so we just have to go back home and work on our finishing,” he said.
Technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma also spoke after the contest.
“It wasn’t a bad game; the players tried their best.
“I am not disappointed in the game because I know it is not easy because El-Kanemi Warriors is also a very good side but I think the (goal) we got made the difference in the end,” he told the Rivers United official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Rivers United next face on Wednesday in Jos while El Kanemi Warriors face Abia Warriors on the same day, in Maiduguri.
Team’s Statistics: Rivers United versus Elkanemi Warriors
Rivers United: Robert Cole, Samuel Ganda, Ali Chiwendu, Festus Austine, Bello Ikeleji, Eneji Otekpa(Gabriel Olalekan 70′) Prince Aggreh, Guy Kuemian (Elum Sochim 89′) Samuel Akinbinu (Weli Christian 64′), Oche Ochowechi and Bamba Bakari
RESERVES: Sunday Rotimi, Zoumana Doumbia, Daniel Israel, and Sunday Afolabi.
Elkanemi Warriors: George Michael, Innocent Gabriel, Ebuka Anaekwe(Solomon Onome 50′), Razak Aliyu, Aghahowa Otakho, Tchoanfine Pade, Bello Kofarmata (Kingsley Maduforo 85′), Williams Ukeme (Isiaka Olawale 73′), Sule Mohammed, Mathias Samuel and Anthony Sunday.
RESERVES: Adamu Abubakar, Lucky Erimuya, Ocheme Edoh and Adebayo Odumosu
Rivers United : Ganda Samuel 78′, Ali Chiwendu 90+2′.
Elkanemi Warriors: Tchoanfine Pade 24′,
Goal: Guy Kuemian 68′
Assist : Ganda Samuel.