Goals from Guy Kuemian, Emeka Ogbugh and Chiwendu Ali proved decisive for Rivers United in their 3-1 victory over Wikki Tourists on match day 31 of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
United, under pressure before kick-off, following a 0-1 reverse in their last home fixture in the NPFL against Sunshine Stars started Sunday’s game with poise, purpose and on the front foot.
An early goal looked likely following such an enterprising start and it was no real surprise when Kuemian headed the ‘Pride of Rivers’ in front in deserved fashion in the 10th minute following an expertly-delivered cross by Ali.
Both sides then traded chances at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium Port Harcourt in an exciting opening period but it was the hosts that extended their lead in spectacular fashion on the stroke of half time.
With little danger lurking and the referee poised to bring the first half to a close Ogbugh produced an outrageous moment of unadulterated quality which has now gone down in Rivers United folklore.
He met a Lukman Mohammed cross with an unstoppable volley into the top right hand corner from just outside the penalty area, an absolute thunderbolt of exquisite technique which saw the home fans erupt in massive hysteria.
It was a goal that produced catharsis for many following the pent up frustrations and tension amongst the home faithful from the past few days following the morale-shattering home defeat to Sunshine Stars four days earlier.
Wikki are however made of stern stuff; the Tourists stepped on the accelerator in the second half and got due reward five minutes after the restart when Abubakar Lawal netted to hurl his side right back into the contest.
United’s goalkeeper, Abiodun Akande suffered a horrific leg break as he unsuccessfully tried to keep out Lawal’s effort.
He will not play again this season.
That incident produced a hushed atmosphere inside the stadium with some of the United players and members of the coaching staff visibly breaking down in tears.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ however responded like gladiators, pushing forward with intent and winning a penalty after Kuemian was fouled in the Wikki box soon after Akande was driven to hospital in an ambulance.
Ali never misses from 11 metres and stroked his effort low and hard into Sani Haliru’s right hand corner as United promptly restored their two-goal cushion.
United had several opportunities to add to their lead but profligacy by Ogbugh and Mohammed meant there was to be no more scoring in the event-filled game.
The win moved United to 14th place on the NPFL standings with 40 points from 29 matches while the Tourists who have play