By Ikenna Nwokedi
Rivers United picked up a valuable point on the final day of the abridge Nigeria Premier League Season (NPFL) match day 18 clash against Rangers International FC of Enugu at the Awka City Stadium on Sunday, 21st May 2023.
The flying antelopes took the lead in the 12th minute of the match off a quick counter attacking move which saw Samuel Pam connect with Chidiebere Nwobodo’s through pass in a one-on-one situation with Rivers Goalkeeper Sochima Victor as Pam’s effort came off the Goalkeeper and ricocheted off the latter into an empty net.
Rivers United restored parity through the deadball specialist Chidiebube Duru who curled in a freekick just outside the box into the net beyond Rangers Int’l Goalkeeper Detan Ogundare.
The two sides kept on pressing on to take the lead with chances few and far between as the centre referee called time on the game.
Coach Abdul Maikaba lamented the numerous chances created in the first half but for failure to convert the chances they have to settle for a point.
“We should have won the game in the first half having created a lot of scoring chances but we couldn’t utilize it and against the run of play Rivers United equalized, it is part of football, we have tried well.
“We are glad that we retained our premier league status considering the fact that we did not start well, but this time around there is an improvement in the latter stages, kudos to my players for their commitment and efforts,” Maikaba said.
Rangers Int’l FC Administrative Secretary, Barrister Ferdinand Ugwuarua eulogized the fans for trooping in their numbers for the final day of the season. Ugwuarua thanked them for their immense support all through the abridge season supporting, praising and even expressing their worries when the results ain’t favouring the team.
He promised that the flying antelopes would be fortified and much better come the 2023/2024 season.
Rivers United Technical boss, Stanley Eguma praised his boys for their performance in ensuring that they qualify to play in the Super 6.
He described the season as outstanding although it was an abridge league.
Coach Eguma said the team will now focus on the upcoming Super 6 and ensure that they play well to emerge the league winners and secure a continental place.
On his part, the Rivers State Commissioner for Sports, Barrister Chris Green commended the organizers for their initiative and innovations in improving the league.
Barrister Green frowned at the abridge league system which he described as an anomaly for the flow and administration of club football.
The sports administrator highlighted challenges such as sponsorship of the league and described Betting as a negative element which can destroy a league system.
The General Manager of the club, Chief Dr. Okey Kpalukwu re-echoed the views of Barrister Green by commending the Interim Management Committee (IMC) for their vision and plan for the league system which is better in terms of administration and officiating.
Dr Kpalukwu said the team will improve on their performance in order to win the league and secure a continental slot.
With the result, Rivers United now top Group B with 36 points from 18 matches and will slug it out with Lobi Stars, Sunshine Stars, Bendel Insurance, Enyimba FC and Remo Stars in the upcoming Super 6.