Rivers United on Wednesday moved out of the relegation zone courtesy of a 1-0 win over MFM FC in a rescheduled Match Day 28 tie of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) decided at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ are now placed 14th on the NPFL standings with 36points from 26 matches, still with two games in hand.
The ‘Olukoya Boys’ remain 2nd on the log with 46 points from 28 matches despite the loss to United.
Playing their first match after elimination from the CAF Confederation Cup, Stanley Eguma’s wards started like a house on fire and would have gone in front after just five minutes after Bernard Ovoke’s penalty was saved by Abayomi Folarin in goal for MFM. The dazzling winger picked himself up after been fouled in box to take the spot kick.
Ovoke kept tormenting the visitors; coming close twice in the 23rd minute when he shot wide from close range before seeing his overhead kick parried over by Folarin six minutes later.
However, in the half hour mark, Lukman Mohammed fed Christian Weli who fired in from inside the box to hand the hosts all three points against an impressive MFM side.
Further attempts by the hosts to increase the tally before the break proved abortive.
The visitors came back strongly in the second half in search of an equalizer to no avail but will rue missed chances by Sikiru Olatunbosun, Stanley Okorom and NPFL topscorer, Stephen Odey.
With two minutes left in the match, Rivers United center-back Gabriel Olalekan was sent off for two bookable offences but the visitors failed to capitalize on their numerical advantage.
Speaking after the match, Technical Adviser of MFM Fidelis Ilechuckwu described the defeat as ‘very painful’ and equally expressed confidence in Odey and Olatunbosun despite their inability to score.
“I think it’s sad and very painful because we came very close but could not convert our chances.
“I think we need to go back home and start working.
“I’m not (disappointed) because they (Odey and Olatunbosun) are still the best I’ve ever coached. They are the best.
“It happens in football. They did not do it today, maybe, next game, they’ll convert those chances.”
On his part, chief coach of Rivers United Willy Udube, who stood in for Technical Adviser, Stanley Eguma, expressed delight over the victory and added that the technical crew is working hard to improve goal scoring in the team.
“I’m happy that we won because we had some little stress in the team. We are fatigued.
“We played well in the first half and in the second half, we had some little stress but I thank God that we have the victory.
“We (technical crew) try in our own little way to give these boys the tactical discipline in scoring goals or in goal scoring but sometimes when we get to the field of play, they don’t reciprocate same.
“So we don’t exactly know what… but we’ll continue to work on them and we strongly believe that they will get it right one day.”
Rivers United will next face struggling ABS FC on Sunday at Ilorin while MFM will return to Lagos for a date with Wikki Tourists as the NPFL enters Match Day 29.