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A scintillating first half performance from Rivers United gave them all three points against hard-fighting Enyimba FC in a Matchday 35 fixture of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt on Sunday.
Basking in the euphoria of their first away win this term last week against bottom-placed Remo Stars, the Pride of Rivers started the brighter of the two as they pressured their opponents with forays of attacks in the opening moments. The match started on a blistering note as Bernard Ovoke took advantage of a foul on Abdoulaye Kanoute on the edge of the box to take an unstoppable free kick which gave United the lead in the fourth minute.
Having drawn first blood, United were not comfortable with the lone goal lead as they took the game to their rattled opponents taking the chunk of the possession and dominating play. Emeka Ogbugh fired an audacious shot from about 25 yards that caught Fatau Dauda off guard but Enyimba’s goalkeeper was relieved as the ball narrowly missed the target.
Enyimba got their first attempt at goal in the 28th minute when a good team move ended with Koffi Franco Atchou taking a tame shot that did not trouble Femi Thomas in goal for United. A minute later, Kanoute took the spoils as he benefited from a defensive blunder from Enyimba’s Dare Ojo. Ojo’s back pass was intercepted by Kanoute and he composed himself to fire a cracker into the roof of the net to double United’s lead.
Enyimba came close after a brilliant run by Stanley Dimgba but his inviting cross was wasted by Ibrahim Mustapha who had nothing else to do but only to put the ball in the back of the net with Thomas in no man’s land. But it would not have counted as the flag was already up for offside.
The Peoples Elephant finally got their groove back and started showing class with incursions into the homers vital areas. Atchou rose highest to head home an Ikechukwu Ibenegbu corner kick to give Enyimba a lifeline. They went into the break 2-1 down and had all to do in the second.
The second half lost the spark that was very visible in the first as both managers made changes to their team to see out the game but United were resolved to dispel the fear of relegation and took all three points to improve their position on the league table. The only attempt that wowed spectators in the second half was Kanoute’s looping header that struck the crossbar in the 87th minute.
Enyimba witnessed a blip to their continental hopes but are upbeat according to their gaffer, Gbenga Ogunbote that with three games to the end, it is still possible as Enyimba have unfinished business on the continent.
Rivers United: Femi Thomas; Ojobo Markson, Ali Chiwendu, Emeka Atuloma, Gabriel Olalekan, Ayobami Asekunowo, Ovoke Bernard (Guy Keumian 67′), Abdoulaye Kanoute, Emeka Ogbugh, Esosa Igbinoba (Jaiyeola Yusuf 77′), Lukman Mohammed
Unused subs: Ndeh Ubong; Ifeanyi Nweke, Doumbia Zoumana, Daniel Israel, Okoye Ifeanyi
Coach: Stanley Eguma
Enyimba: Fatau Dauda; Andrew Abalogu, Ikouwem Udoh, Nelson Ogbonnaya, Isiaka Oladuntoye, Dare Ojo, Kelly Kester, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Stanley Dimgba (Chukwude Stephen 81′), Koffi Franco Atchou, Ibrahim Mustapha (Chinonso Okonkwo 74′)
Unused subs: Izunda Njoku; Goodluck Onamado, Solomon Okpako, Samson Gbadebo, Eric Frimpong
Coach: Gbenga Ogunbote
Rivers United 2-1 Enyimba
On target: 3-2
Corner kick: 2-1
Ikouwem Udoh 5′
Ovoke Bernard 7′
Koffi Atchou 78′
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