By Clement Nwankpa
Rivers United rounded off an impressive outing at the NPFL Super4 with a 1-0 defeat of Wikki Tourists on Sunday to emerge winners after Rangers failed to beat FC Ifeanyi Ubah in the second game of the final matchday.
Guy Kuemian’s 5th minute goal ultimately proved enough for Stanley Eguma’s wards to pocket all three points.
But this was a game that showed Rivers United could mix it well. In previous games, fans had been enchanted by their sleek passing and robust attacking displays but they showed tenacity to protect their early lead in this game.
In what could best be described as a game of two halves, Rivers United started like house on fire and dominated proceedings in the first half.
As soon as Kuemian rounded Wikki keeper Emeka Nwabulu and tapped into an empty net in the 5th minute, it pointed towards another good day in the office for last season’s NPFL runners-up.
Five minutes later, Kuemian’s chip over onrushing Nwabulu narrowly missed target.
At this point, it was Rivers United all the way as Esosa Igbinoba and Nzube Anaezemba dominated proceedings in the middle of the park.
In the 32nd minute, the marauding right-back of Rivers United, Ifeanyi Nweke’s delivery was falling graciously for Kuemian in the box but just as he was set to pull the trigger, Nnaemeka Anyanwu’s last ditch interception saved the situation for Wikki.
If the first half showed Rivers United’s prowess in the final third, the second showed their resilience. They had to hang in to survive Wikki’s unrelenting forays.
In the process, keeper Abiodun Akande became a ‘screaming keeper.’ He could be heard from every part of the arena as he shouted himself hoarse organising his defence against the rampaging opposition.
Eguma tightened up things at the back bringing in Joseph Douhadji for Gabriel Olalekan. Douhadji’s partnership with charismatic captain Festus Austine at the heart of defence helped to keep Wikki at bay.
In the 67th minute, Sadiq Adamu teed on Muktar Alhassan but his effort narrowly missed target.
Then in the 72nd minute, Christopher Waziri’s goal-bound free kick was nodded off the line by Austine. From the ensuing corner, Harrison Madu’s volley was inches wide.
In the 81st minute, Omo Johnson let fly a cannon from the edge of the box but Akande was in a good position to gather the ball.
Six minutes later, Adamu’s ‘wicked’ delivery was headed for the top corner before Akande tipped over.
Ultimately, Rivers United hung in to secure a victory that highlighted their grit. A display that should come in handy on those Champions League nights on away soil when only resilience can bring favourable results.
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