Rivers United began the new Nigeria Professional Football League season on a winning note courtesy of a solitary strike by Guy Kuemian in the second half in a game the visitors failed to take their chances.
Just like last season, Kuemian’s goal proved vital as the home side began the season with three points on the league table. Here are three takeaways from the match.
New season, same old Rivers United
Famed for playing pragmatic football under coach Stanley Eguma in contrast to the quick passing game employed by the opposition, Rivers United began the new season with a scoreline regular visitors at the Yakubu Gowon stadium have become familiar with 1-0.
With six debutants named in the starting line-up by Eguma, Rivers United looked a much changed side as compared to the one who defeated the Borno Army in Port Harcourt a year ago.
Eneji Otekpa, Bamba Bakari and Ochewuchi Salefu were given a chance to impress in a new look midfield, despite the huge faith placed on the trio, they were largely outshone in the middle of the park by the more enterprising and energetic style of El-kanemi Warrior’s Razak Aliyu, Bello Kofarmata and Williams Ukeme.
Perhaps, the nature of the occasion did get to them, a point Eguma noted in his post-match comments: “my players were impatient and in a hurry for goals and it didn’t give us a good game.
“Most of them are playing for the first time and they tried to understand the philosophy, the principle that we play.
Profligate El-kanemi have themselves to blame
Rarely will you see an NPFL team record seven corners and 10 shots away from home. That was as far as El-Kanemi Warriors tried to cause an upset in Port Harcourt, a ground they have failed they win in the last nine visits.
Without their Technical adviser Imama Amapakabo who is on national duties in Morocco with the Super Eagles at the ongoing African Nations Championships, first team coach Eziwo Ernest was seen several times in animated fashion on the touchline as he watched his side spun several good scoring chances.
Most glaring of all was a miss by Sulley Mohammed in the 88th minute when he was in a one-on-one situation with just Rivers United goalkeeper Robert Cole to beat, but he somehow failed to find the back of the net with a poorly timed shot.
Anthony Sunday, Aghoha Otakho and Mathias Samuel went close too, but failed to make their dominance of possession count. Where they failed Rivers United’s Guy Kuemian showed them how to do it when he scored the only goal of the game in the 67th minute. Its little margins like these that separates a conqueror and the vanquished.
El-kanemi are a team to watch out for
Yes they may have left Port Harcourt without a point, but don’t let the scoreline deceive you. They were by far the better side on the balance of play if only they had taken their chances.
Traditionally El-kanemi are not good travellers but they pressed high and passed with much zip on the floor, although their naivety did show in the final third, at least it shows promise for what is to come and a base the coaches can build on.