Sikiri Alimi and Michael Stephen scored in both halves as Lobi Stars defeated Rivers United 2-1 in a Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) rescheduled fixture on Wednesday.
Cletus Emotan’s expertly-taken free kick, late on, proved to be nothing more than scant consolation in the rearranged contest decided at the Aper Aku Stadium in Markurdi.
A draw would have seen Rivers United return to the playoff places and technical manager, Stanley Eguma rang the changes from the last game, an underwhelming 2-0 reverse suffered against Wikki Tourists, three days earlier.
Left back, Konan Ruffin, Ogar David, Wasiu Jimoh, Chinda Chizi Kaka and Cletus Emotan all came in while Zoumana Doumbia, Emekayi Temple, Weli Christan, Leonard Ugochukwu and Nafiu Kabuga dropped out.
The changes proved to be effective early on as the ‘Pride of Rivers’ marched the hosts for practically the first half of the contest. Clear cut opportunities were at a premium in the first half with the visitors looking marginally better in the offensive third.
Lobi, however, took the lead, deep into first-half added time with their first shot on target. Alimi scored with a brilliant snapshot from inside the box after the Rivers United back line failed to intercept Kelly Kester’s majestic lobbed pass.
The game was basically over as a contest nine minutes after the restart as the unmarked Stephen powered home a header from close range following a brilliantly-taken corner by Moses Bunde.
Emotan curled home a 25-yard free kick in David Beckham-esque fashion with 15 minutes remaining to set up a grandstand finish but Lobi Stars showed impressive game management to get their noses over the line.
Head coach of Lobi Stars, Solomon Ogbeide praised his charges for the effort that culminated in the win while also complimenting the vanquished opponents.
“We played, we won. The side we played, they are not a bad side. We knew we were going to play a very tactical side and we prepared too,” Ogbeide told www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Eguma on his part bemoaned what he referred to as “two mistakes that cost us the game”.
“We played much better today compared to our last game but we two mistakes that cost us the game,” he said.
Rivers United have now dropped to sixth on the NPFL log with 13 points from 10 matches.