Guy Kuemian netted the only goal of an underwhelming Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest as Rivers United beat Niger Tornadoes 1-0 in Port Harcourt on Sunday.
The attacker volleyed home a Lukman Mohammed’s cross after the home side sprang Tornadoes’ offside trap in the 22nd minute.
Victory for the Pride of Rivers moves them up to third place on the NPFL standings with seven points while Tornadoes remain bottom of the log with a solitary point from their first three matches.
Sunday’s display by the Pride of Rivers was anything but convincing as they had to rely on several heroic stops from goalkeeper Sunday Rotimi in the second half to hold out for what could turn out to be potentially crucial points in the home strait of the season.
In truth, United made life complicated for themselves by fluffing their lines on many occasions when cold-bloodedness and precision by their attackers could have ended the game as a contest long before the midway stage of the second half.
Nzube Anaezemba had a shot smothered by the Tornadoes goalkeeper Aliko Mustapha in the ninth minute before Lukman Mohammed caused despair among the home faithful as he kicked the ball tamely when left unmarked in the visitors’ penalty area.
Anaezemba had another crack at goal in the 20th minute but the inspired Aliko, who had a barnstorming game, saved easily.
Unrelenting pressure eventually yielded fruit in the 22nd minute as Kuemian fired home an unstoppable volley with Tornadoes failing horribly in their attempt to play a high line.
Chances were few and far between for the rest of a half that failed to hit any high notes as both sides struggled for sustained levels of fluency in their passing and movement off the ball.
Tornadoes improved dramatically after the break and were extremely unfortunate not to level matters on more than one occasion.
Their best moments arrived in the 55th minute when Ikefe Andrew’s free kick forced Rotimi into an unconventional save and two minutes later Wakili Musa’s brilliant volley from the resulting corner missed the target by inches.
United continued to create chances but continued to fritter them away with shocking regularity.
Bernard Ovoke smacked a volley against the crossbar in the 61st minute while Aliko produced top-drawer saves to deny Mohammed and substitute Maduabuchi Okereke as the game drew to a close.
United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma, was less than impressed with his side’s display and rued the many missed opportunities which could have made the win more emphatic.
“It was a very difficult game for us. We never underrated Tornadoes because it is a game of football.
“We planned to win but unfortunately, we did not have a very good game.
“We won but we were not able to string the passes (together the way we usually do).
“My players were jittery and we lost the midfield battles to our opponents and it gave them have the upper hand,” he said at the post-match press conference.
Tornadoes head coach Bala Abubakar spoke about a game plan which was carried out to perfection against storied opposition.
“Rivers United is a big team representing Nigeria on the continent.
“Our team is seventy percent new and gradually we are trying to stabilise the team.
“We came here (to Port Harcourt) with a game plan.
“We knew it would be difficult but we gave a very good account of ourselves,” he said.
Rivers United next travel to Nnewi to face FC Ifeanyiubah while Tornadoes’ next have a home fixture against Wikki Tourists.
Both games will be played on Wednesday.
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