BY SAMMY WEJINYA.
Emeka Ogbugh’s expertly-converted penalty proved decisive as Rivers United overcame a battling Abia Warriors side 1-0 in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) on Sunday.
Abia Warriors came into the match day 18 game in great form having lost just once in their previous seven NPFL games and sitting in fifth place on the log.
They proved their lofty position on the log was no fluke with a solid start to the game characterized by crisp passing and purposeful attacking play.
It almost led to a spectacular goal in the seventh minute when the lively Sunday Adetunji got on the end of a devastating counter attacking move.
The attacker squared for the unmarked Nweke Kalu who somehow managed to strike his effort against the frame of Sunday Rotimi’s left hand post with the Rivers United goalkeeper left with no chance.
United set the tempo for the rip-roaring start to the contest with Ogbugh embarking on a mazy run from the left in the fifth minute before cutting back with menace for the onrushing Bolaji Sakin who saw his goal bound strike beaten out for a corner by the Abia Warriors goalkeeper, Agbor Ekoi.
United then had a golden opportunity to take the lead just after the half hour when Bolaji Sakin was adjudged to have been fouled in the penalty area.
It was the first penalty awarded to Rivers United this season and with Bernard Ovoke missing from the match day squad, the responsibility from 11 metres fell to Ogbugh.
The former Heartland FC attacker is a pure artist from such situations and on this occasion, he opted for power rather than guile or placement.
His fiercely-hit effort flew like a missile, into the top corner and with Ekoi heroically trying to keep out the effort, he did not stay around for much longer to tell the story.
The Abia Warriors goalkeeper got injured in the process of unsuccessfully trying to keep out Ogbugh’s perfect penalty and was promptly replaced by Chinedu Anozie.
Chances were few and far between in the second half which was never going to match the first stanza in terms of drama and entertainment value.
Both sides did trade chances though but United did enough to close out the win which saw them leave the relegation zone for the first time in weeks.
“I am happy with the result and hopefully we can build on this and continue to improve on our position on the log,” technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma exclusively told the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Rivers United moved up one place on the log following the win on Sunday and now occupy 16th place on the log with 21 points from 16 matches.
The Warriors dropped one place on the log and now sit in sixth place on the NPFL table having amassed 25 points from 18 matches.