MFM head coach Fidelis Ilechukwu says his gamble which led to his team being knocked out of the FA Cup in the fifth round has been justified after the Olukoya Boys eked out a 1-0 victory over Rivers United at the Agege Stadium on Match Day 17 of the 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
MFM, holders of the Lagos FA Cup suffered a shock fifth-round exit to Box 2 Box FC but following the win over Rivers United, Ilechukwu revealed that his decision to field a weakened side in that FA Cup loss was to ensure they won against Rivers United.
Chijioke Akuneto scored the game’s only goal from the spot in the fifth minute to hand MFM a first win in seven matches and Ilechukwu couldn’t hide his delight at the “very, very important” victory which he said was achieved despite having lost five first-team players due to injury.
“It has not been easy because we have suffered a lot of injuries, we have five players out through injuries in our team,” Ilechukwu said in the aftermath of his team’s win at the Agege Stadium.
“Rivers are a very good side, so it is a game we have been preparing [for]: because of this game we lost [in the] FA Cup because we decided to rest eighty percent of our players to make sure we got this result. So, to me, I’m happy because the result is very, very important for us.”
Notwithstanding his team’s win, Ilechukwu conceded that “perfect” Rivers United were much better on the day but were undone by what he termed “the major issue in Nigerian football” – an inability to put the ball in the back of the net.
“It’s all about converting chances,” Ilechukwu said about Rivers United failing to capitalize on their obvious superiority in the match.
“They had everything; all the contacts, all the advantage, but it’s all about the major issue in Nigerian football even everywhere [which] is [for] strikers to put the ball inside the net. That’s the only thing but in terms of the quality the game and everything, they’re a perfect team.”