BY SAMMY WEJINYA
Rivers United put up their worst display of the season on Sunday in a 0-2 loss to Wikki Tourists at the Pantami Stadium as the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) entered Match Day 11.
Wikki started in edgy fashion against a Rivers United side with one change from their last game against Katsina United in Port Harcourt on March 6.
The Port Harcourt side looked, by far, the more accomplished side early on and could have easily taken the lead had Christian Weli had scored in the 12th minute.
The Rivers United midfielder however placed a free header fromsix yards out, inches wide following an exquisitely delivered free kick by Peter Ubakanma.
That miss by Weli stung the hosts into action as Promise Damala crept into the visitors’ box two minutes later before firing a fierce effort that just whizzed wide off the right-hand side of Drissa Bamba’s goal.
Damala’s miss from the gilt-edged opportunity was a premonition that United failed to heed because six minutes later, Wikki took the lead with Abba Umar firing in a stunning effort off the crossbar from the edge of the box.
The home side went on to boss the rest of the half with the visitors looking threatening in fits and starts.
Kehinde Adedipe came close to levelling matters in the 37th minute but his goal bound strike was pushed out spectacularly by the Wikki Tourists goalkeeper, Chinedu Anthony Ude.
Three minutes later, Wikki almost doubled their advantage through the lively Abba who attempted to curl one into the far post in Lionel Messi-esque fashion but Bamba read the danger well enough and managed to save in unconventional fashion.
The second half exemplified the poorest and most underwhelming by United this season as the hosts had a field day in carving out a plethora of chances.
Only profligacy prevented the score line from being more lopsided as Abba, Isa Gata and Manu Garba were all found culpable of shocking misses when clean through on goal.
Gata’s scrambled effort, 19 minutes from the end after an Idris Guda effort was beaten away by Bamba following a shocking howler by Peter Ubakanma gave a more realistic reflection of the hosts’ dominance.
Head coach of Wikki Tourists, Ali Zubairu praised his charges for the win while identifying Weli’s first half miss as the turning point in the game.
“Rivers United is a very experienced side. We were lucky because they had the first chance of the game and if they had taken their opportunities, particularly the first chance of the game when one of their players (headed wide from close range), it could have been a different game.
“Our team has been making progress match by match and it showed (on Sunday) against Rivers United,” Zubairu told the official Rivers United website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Rivers United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma was crestfallen afterwards as he admitted that his side did not play up to their usual standards.
“We did not play well. We will correct the mistakes noticed ahead of our next game against Lobi Stars on Wednesday,” he said.
Rivers United is currently in fourth place in Group B of the NPFL with 13 points from nine matches.