Akwa United remained on course for a top-three league finish as they earned a creditable point in Port Harcourt against Rivers United.
The fixture which was a rescheduled matchday 21 encounter saw Akwa United open scoring in the 11th minute before Rivers United replied through an Emeka Ogbugh header three minutes later. His second goal in as many games. Goalkeeper Sunday Rotimi saved Alhassan Ibrahim’s penalty in the first half with both sides left to share the spoils.
Rivers United’s first-choice goalkeeper Sunday Rotimi made his first start in goal in two months in one of two changes to the side that beat Wikki Tourists at the weekend. Akwa United welcomed Alhassan Ibrahim back to the starting line-up after he sat out the victory over Nasarawa United due to a hamstring injury.
Akwa United took a surprise lead in the eleventh minute when Musa Newman instinctively tapped home a poorly cleared ball by Joseph Douhadji.
Rivers United replied almost instantly three minutes after going behind. Emeka Ogbugh connected with Ali Chiwendu’s cross to draw home side level.
Despite seeing their lead wiped out, Akwa United soon had an opportunity to regain the lead when Musa Newman was brought down inside the penalty box by Sunday Rotimi. Referee quickly pointed to the spot much to the disbelief of the home side.
Super Eagles midfielder Alhassan Ibrahim who stepped up to take the penalty, saw his effort saved by Rotimi to keep the score at 1-1.
Kuemian almost put the home side ahead two minutes before half time but his shot was brilliantly saved by Ojo Olorunleke. The former Sunshine Stars keeper’s save ensured both sides went into the break with the scores level.
The second half looked a stark contrast of the first as both teams struggled to create anything meaningful.
Akwa United enjoined the most of he ball possession but their final balls in the final third lacked accuracy.
The hosts brought on Daniel Israel, Efosa Eguakun and Christian Weli as they went in search of likely winner. All three players had little effect of the game as the visitors stopped the Pride of Rivers in their tracks.
With the clock ticking Emeka Ogbugh flashed a long range shot narrowly wide in the 83rd minute.
Up the other end Akwa United almost snatched all three points when Alhassan Ibrahim failed to hold his nerve having done the hard part. The midfielder received a cut back from substitute Gabriel Okechukwu, his deft first touch left two Rivers United players in the deck but he failed to find the target with the goal gaping.
With the point, Akwa United are now four points off league leaders Plateau United with eight matches to play. The Promise Keepers have 51pts from 31 matches. Rivers United on the other hand climbed to 12th position with 41 points.
Rivers United travel to Enugu to play Rangers while Akwa United are guests of El-Kanemi Warriors in Maiduguri on Matchday 32.
Rivers Utd: 22. Sunday Rotimi; 2. Ifeanyi Nweke, 3. Ali Chiwendu, 21. Yusuf Jaiyeola (Weli 88′), 5. Joseph Douhadji, 12. Gabriel Olalekan, 26. Emeka Ogbuh, 15. Lukman Mohammed, 9. Guy Keumian (Israel 71′), 13. Emeka Atuloma, 8. Esosa Igbinoba (Eguakun 71′)
Subs not used: 1. Femi Thomas; 14. Zoumana Doumbia, 31. Semiu Liadi, Kanoute Abdoulaye
Akwa Utd: 30. Olorunleke Ojo; 16. Otobong Effiong, 3. Chigozie Chilekwu, 6. Aremu Afeez, 15. Ariwachukwu Emmanuel, 5. Paterne Counou, 7. Ubong Friday, 9. Musa Newman (Olisema 68′), 10. Christian Pyagbara (Okechukwu 79′), 24. Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, 4. Alhassan Ibrahim
Subs not used: 18. Ishmalia Shagari; 28. Ofem Inah, 13. Metteng Tchakunte, 32. Christopher Lolo, 8. Hassan Babangida.
Cautions: Ifeanyi Nweke 17′, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi 51′
Goals: Musa Newman 11′, Emeka Ogbugh 14′.
Photo credit: LMC