BY SAMMY WEJINYA.
The travails of Rivers United are showing little signs of coming to an end as Gombe United inflicted a 1-0 defeat on the Port Harcourt club in a fiercely-fought Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) game on Sunday.
Youngster, Best ‘Messi’ Deemua was handed his season’s debut while Efosa Eguakun was given the nod for his first start for the ‘Pride of Rivers’.
United were without their technical manager, Stanley Eguma who was suspended for one game and in his absence, they looked jaded and bereft of ideas in a first half of low quality.
Gombe United dominated the first half and almost took the lead in the 24th minute when Sani Suleiman struck the post with a fierce effort from range with the Rivers United goalkeeper, Abiodun Akande well beaten.
It was a premonition the visitors failed to heed and they duly paid the price three minutes later as the hosts took the lead in breath-taking fashion.
Idris Bakare got on the end of a sweeping counter attack and calmly rounded Akande before planting emphatically into an unguarded net.
United duly responded in the second half and came inches away from levelling the scores in the 56th minute when Nzube Anaezemba’s half volley clattered against the cross bar.
Gombe United had several excellent opportunities to extend their advantage but profligacy by their forwards proved to be their greatest undoing.
The nadir of the plethora of misses was Sani Suleiman’s extraordinary gaffe from three yards out with a gaping goal at his mercy midway into the second half.
Rivers United however finished the game the stronger and thought they had equalized in the 84th minute when substitute, Godbless Asamoah steered home unerringly from close range.
The effort was however chalked off much to the frustration of the visitors. Gombe United withstood a late onslaught from the visiting side who threw the kitchen sink at the hosts in an ultimately futile bid to rescue a point from the throes of defeat.
Chief Coach of Rivers United, Willy Udube praised his charges for their second half display.
“I think we deserved more in this game, especially with our performance in the second half.
“We are not happy that a goal we scored in the second half was disallowed but we always respect the decisions of the referees,” he told the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
The Gombe United technical adviser, Manu Garba also addressed the press after the incident-packed game decided at the Pantami Stadium, Gombe.
“The first half was very good for my boys but after the first 15 minutes of the second half, a lot of them lost concentration.
“Rivers United dominated the last 20 minutes of the game but the first 75 minutes belonged to us.
“It was a keenly-contested game,” Garba said.