It was a fierce evening that sent jitters to Makurdi fans at the Aper Aku Stadium as Rivers United laboured profusely in the first 45 minutes of the matchday one fixture of 2021/2022 NPFL game that earned them a 27th-minute goal by Ishaq Kayode’s brilliant effort which eventually gave them a deserved away point.
The game was predictably a difficult one for Lobi Stars as Rivers United who have been in the continent since the end of last season were no doubt better prepared. Though the early dominance of the visitors was short lived when Coach Eddy Dombraye made a sweeping three changes five minutes before the end of first half, pulling out Sani Mohammed, Akile Monday and Okolo Michael to introduce Ganda Samuel, Mubarak Saidu and Onuwa Chukwuka, a bold decision that changed the tides of the game.
As effective as the changes proved to be, the five minutes left were too small to collapse the rock-solid defence of the Eunisell sponsored boys. The incursions of the pride of Benue paid off two minutes into the second half as Barnabas Imenger curled a precise free-kick from the Fringe of the penalty area that left goalkeeper Sochima Victor in awe to give Lobi Stars the equalizer.
The reaction of Rivers United met with the resistance of Lobi Stars as each attack became a goal threat to the sea siders with Lobi Stars Mubarak Saidu as the tormentor in chief. Chinonso Okonkwo came in to replace Ifeanyi Ogba in the 64th while Inah Ishah completed the substitution chances of the homeboys as he took over from outstanding Barnabas Imenger Jnr in the 85th minute. Each substitution made by Eddy Dombraye proved timely and effective but the never say die spirit of Rivers United dragged the game to a one-all draw.
In the post match media chat, Coach Stanley Eguma of Rivers United praise his boys for the first half performance and acknowledge the firepower of Lobi Stars in the second stanza of the fierce encounter while Eddy Dombraye hoped for better outings in the coming games at the same time thumbs up the quality of opposition of Rivers United.
Line Up: Onyia, Mohammed (Mubarak 40″), Osimaga, Ebedebiri, Odinaka, Godwin, Imenger(Ishah 85″), Ogba (Okonkwo 64″), Ufere, Okolo (Onuwa 40″). Akile (Ganda 40″).
Unused Subs: Aliko, Akhabue, Daniel, Onyebuchi.
Ishaq Kayode (Rivers United) 27″
Barnabas Imenger Jnr (Lobi Stars) 47″
Alex Godwin 51″, Ufere Chinedu 54″,
Up next: Kano Pillars in Kaduna