Substitute Efosa Eguakun’s stunning strike in added time, his first goal this season, won all-three points for Rivers United in a keenly fought Matchday 24 Nigeria Professional Football League encounter against FC Ifeanyi Ubah played at the Yakubu Gowon stadium on Sunday.
The veteran midfielder broke the hearts of a visibly downtrodden FC Ifeanyi Ubah when he sweetly struck a half volley shot into the roof of the net to hand his side a 2-1 victory.
An 81st minute penalty scored by Prince Aggreh for FC Ifeanyi Ubah looked to have denied Rivers United from taking all-three points as both sides were headed for a 1-1 draw.
Rivers United took the lead through a debatable penalty scored by Bolaji Sakin in the 61st minute much to the joy of the home fans but there were questions raised about the penalty decision made by centre referee, Patrick Ishaya after he adjudged an FC Ifeanyi Ubah defender had handled Ifeanyi Okoye’s shot inside the box. After a brief delay due to protestations by the visitors, Sakin stepped up and fired the ball straight down the middle.
Technical Adviser of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma made three changes from the side which lost at Niger Tornadoes in midweek. On his part, Head Coach of FC Ifeanyi Ubah recalled Egbeta Michael, Adou Blaise back into the side, both players replaced Adeleye and Tamen Medrano who started in the 2-0 home win over ABS FC in midweek.
The Pride of Rivers first threatened in the the tenth minute of the match through a cross-shot by John Odumegwu which was parried to safety by Bamba Drissa. The Pride of Rivers looked the more purposeful side and soon missed the chance to take the lead when Emeka Atuloma’s header in the 16th minute was deflected past the post for a corner.
FC Ifeanyi Ubah highest goalscorer this season with 9 goals, Godwin Obaje was guilty of not punishing some slack defending by the hosts when he was left unmarked inside the eighteen-yard box but the striker headed a Seka Pascal cross tamely at Abiodun Akande in goal for Rivers United.
Lukman Mohammed’s’ header in the 31st minute for Rivers United and another miss at the beginning of the second half by him kept the visitors in the game and made them believe even more that the game was there for the taking.
Then came the penalty two minutes before the hour mark. With his back to goal, Odumegwu held off his marker before laying the ball off for Okoye to shoot straight into the hands of Eze Joseph, penalty was the decision made by referee Ishaya despite the protestations by the FC Ifeanyi Ubah players. After three minutes of delays, Sakin fired the spot-kick straight down the middle with Bamba Drissa guessing wrongly.
Unlike most NPFL sides who had visited the Yakubu Gowon Stadium and left empty-handed, the Anambra Warriors showed they weren’t in Port Harcourt to cower to the hosts good home record when they almost drew level late on from a strike by Pascal Seka that came off the post.
The pressure by the visitors eventually told, as a sliding Festus Austine used his hand to stop a shot by substitute Prince Aggreh. Aggreh who had earlier been subbed on for Yaya Kone dispatched the resultant penalty far beyond the reach of Abiodun Akande to level the scores at 1-1.
There was still time for Drissa to stop a rasping shot by Ifeanyi Nweke to keep the scores tied before Efosa Eguakun produced a fantastic volley in added time which Drissa couldn’t stop to steal victory for Rivers United right at the death.
The result means Rivers United put an end to a three-match losing streak in all competitions and distanced themselves 3 points clear of the relegation zone with 30 points with a game in hand. They play Lobi Stars next at the Aper Aku stadium in Makurdi on Matchday 25.
Meanwhile, defeat for FC Ifeanyi Ubah sees the Anambra Warriors lose ground in the chase of leaders Plateau United and instead drop down to 4th position on the log with 37 points and will be at home on Matchday 25 against Wikki Tourists.
Rivers United XI: 23. Abiodun Akande; 2. Ifeanyi Nweke, 19. Festus Austine (C), 12. Gabriel Olalekan, 14. Zoumana Doumbia; 13. Emeka Atuloma, 33. Ifeanyi Okoye (Nzube Anaezemba 73′), 34. Ayo Saka; 15. Lukman Mohammed (Efosa Eguakun 56′), 11. Bolaji Sakin, 32. John Odumegwu (Daniel Israel 85′).
Unused subs: 1. Femi Thomas, 30. Markson Ojobo, 3. Ali Chiwendu, 17. Godbless Asamoah.
FC Ifeanyi Ubah XI: 22. Bamba Drissa, 33. Osia Felix, 29. Adou Blaise, 6. Eze Stephen, 23. Maamo Joseph, 35. Msonter Tony, 31. Egbeta Michael, 13. Yaya Kone (Prince Aggreh 68′), 25. Bright Onyedikachi (C), 26. Seka Pascal (King Osanga 78′), 17. Godwin Obaje (Chijioke Alakwe 74′).
Unused subs: 12. Uche Okafor, 5. Isaac Baadu, 30. Elu Wilson, 8. Tamen Medrano