10-man Rivers United held on to a solitary strike from new signing Ayo Saka at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt to edge out Nasarawa United 1-0 in a matchday 20 encounter in the Nigerian Professional Football League.
Saka fired in a left footed strike six minutes before half-time to put the host in front after a good build up play from left back Zoumana Doumbia.
Rivers United were reduced to 10-men after captain, Festus Austine received a second yellow card for stopping the ball with his hand leaving referee Oluwabonmi Olayombo with no choice but to send the defender off for an early bath. Austine had been earlier issued a yellow card for dissent.
Coach of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma made four changes to the side that lost in Tunisia in the CAF Confederations Cup to Club Africain last week.
Austine who missed that encounter came in for Joseph Douhadji, while Frederick Obomate, Ifeanyi Nweke and Guy Kuemian started ahead of the rested Nzube Anaezemba, Markson Ojobo and Bolaji Sakin.
On his part, Nasarawa United gaffer Kabiru Dogo recalled Emmanuel Makama, Ishaya Anyu back into the side and gave a debut to Ocheme Edoh who recently joined the Solid Miners from Rangers International.
Nasarawa United had the first clear-cut chance of the game in the 25th minute when a marauding run and lobbed pass by Emmanuel Makama found Ocheme Edoh unmarked at the back post, his shot was saved by Rivers United goalkeeper Sunday Rotimi with his defenders caught napping.
Thinking Edoh was offside when he fired that shot, Rotimi and Austine ran towards the linesman protesting why no flag was raised. Referee Olayombo correctly issued both players yellow cards for dissent.
Minutes later, Austine lost sight of his marker and instead handled the ball which led to his sending off.
Undeterred by being a man short, Rivers United took the lead in the 39th minute. Obomate exchanged passes with Doumbia with the later releasing Saka who ran into the box and fired a left footed shot to relieve the nerves of the home side.
John Odumegwu could have doubled the lead for Rivers United but his shot was saved by Suraj Ayeleso in goal for Nasarawa United.
At the resumption of the second half, Rivers United defended stoutly to deny the visitors any sight at goal with the solitary strike from Saka enough to seal the three points.
With the win, Rivers United are up to eleventh on the table with 27 points while Nasarawa United remain in ninth position with same points separated by goal difference.
Rivers United are next in action in the Confederations Cup next Wednesday when they welcome Moroccan side FUS Rabat to the Yakubu Gowon Stadium while Nasarawa United are at home to Wikki Tourists.
Rivers United: 22. Rotimi; 2. Nweke, 6. Asekunowo, 19. Austine, 14. Doumbia; 13. Atuloma, 34. Saka, 20. Obomate (Odah 80′); 26. Ogbugh, 9. Kuemian (Markson 58′), 32. Odumegwu (Okoye 87′)
Unused subs: 1. Thomas; 3. Chiwendu, 16. Israel, 21. Yusuf Jaiyeola
Yellow Cards: Rotimi (25′), Austin (25′)
Red Card: Austine (32′)
Nasarawa United: 27. Ayeleso, 2. Onaolapo (Abdullahi 77′), 3. Makama, 13. Obi, 5. Sogbeso, 29. Williams, 19. Bashir (Fabiyi 74′), Anyu, 34. Edoh (Philip 55′), 21. Achiv, 11. Hassan.
Unused subs: 12. Umar, 16. Mohammed, 15. Kadir, 18. Ahmed
Yellow cards: None