Sunday’s crunch Nigeria Professional Football League encounter between Enyimba and Rivers United lived up to the billing, as the hosts ran out 2-1 winners at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt.
First half goals from Bernard Ovoke and Abdoulaye Konate sandwiched Koffi Franco Atchou’s header, securing three points for Rivers United against Enyimba in their bid to put distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
With the build-up to the game tainted by the unsporting behaviour of the home side’s supporters on the eve of the fixture, there was a palpable buzz in the air, even with the stadium less than a quarter full. In those tense circumstances, Gbenga Ogunbote threw a curveball with his selection, making three changes from the side that lost in midweek to ABS in the Aiteo Cup. Franco came into the side in place of Eric Frimpong, while Kelly Kester replaced Stephen Chukwude.
Both sides signified their intent early on, with Enyimba working the ball forward inside the opening minute. Stanley Dimgba played in Mustapha in the box, but the forward was unable to get a shot away. That partnership would prove one of the few bright sparks for the People’s Elephants on the day.
The hosts edged ahead in the 5th minute. Ovoke lined up a free kick, and his curler flew high into the net untouched, with Enyimba goalkeeper Fatau Dauda shoved as he made to go for the ball. The referee however waved all remonstrations away, and let the goal stand.
The home side again got the rub of the green 15 minutes later, flashing a shot across the face of goal at the end of a break that stemmed from an infringement on Franco. Rivers United eventually bagged a second on the half-hour mark. Konate seized on a moment of hesitation in the Enyimba box, and unleashed a swerving, dipping volley which flew past Dauda, giving the Ghana international no chance.
With Akwa United also losing on the road, the result sees Enyimba remain in fourth place behind the Promise Keepers on goal difference with three games left in the season.
Rivers United (Bernard Ovoke 5′, Abdoulaye Konate 29′) 2-1 Enyimba (Koffi Franco Atchou 35′)
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