Remo Stars 1-3 Rivers United: Relegation battle



Football

Rivers United came out on top in a four-goal slug fest against Remo Stars in Sagamu in one of the most talked about match day 34 Nigeria Professional Football League contests; prevailing 3-1 at the Gateway International Stadium.


United were deeply enmeshed in the relegation zone before kickoff and needed to produce a big performance to ease the pressure.


They did just that, turning on the style to record their first away win of the season in all competitions.


The first half display of the visitors was also their best of the season as they could easily have scored five or six times against shell-shocked opposition.


Esosa Igbinoba and Kanoute Abdoulaye struck fierce efforts against the cross bar in a rip-roaring first half that ebbed and flowed.


Igbinoba’s effort in the 18th minute; a well-drilled strike from 25 yards, totally hoodwinked the Remo Stars goalkeeper, Tunde Adekunle but was only kept out by the frame of the goal.


The midfielder had also come extremely close to opening the scoring for the ‘Pride of Rivers’ 12 minutes earlier with a fizzing long range strike that Adekunle did well to scramble away for a corner.


Kanoute should probably have scored when he came face to face with Adekunle three minutes before the break but he shot with too much power, beating the goalkeeper but not the cross bar.


The Malian striker, full of running all game long, had seen an effort chalked off for offside in the seventh minute.


It was a half of total dominance by United who took the lead in deserved fashion on the quarter hour mark.


‘Golden Boy’, Bernard Ovoke spectacularly curled in a free kick with power and precision, evoking memories of a stellar 2015/16 season for his third league goal of the campaign.


United continued to step on the accelerator and duly doubled their lead in the 34th minute when Emeka Ogbugh planted emphatically into an unguarded net after Adekunle parried a powerful Kanoute shot towards his path.


Remo Stars never got off first gear in the first half as United’s aggressive, high octane display kept them on the back foot for most parts.


They best opportunity of the half was a shot off target in the 25th minute when Victor Chidume attempted a speculative long range strike from 30 yards that was never going to trouble the Rivers United goal keeper, Sunday Rotimi.


United however finished the half with the best goal scoring opening when the lively Kanoute produced an extraordinary header off a corner in additional time which Adekunle pushed away from danger in unconventional fashion.


The Remo Stars head coach, Fatai Osho knew he had to respond as he attempted to make his side stir from hibernation and he duly introduced playmaker, Ochowechi “Oche” Salefu who was to produce one of the best 45-minute cameos in the division this term.


Salefu’s impact was immediate and decisive as he began to pull the strings and get his side playing with poise and belief.


He almost scored in the 52nd minute with a powerful free kick that Rotimi managed to keep out with a flying save.


Two minutes earlier, United almost killed off the game as a contest when Ovoke found himself face to face with Adekunle but the goalkeeper won the battle of wits with an important save to deny the winger his brace.


It was a game for the ages as the two sides continued to trade chances with the play flowing from one end to the other.


A goal was inevitable with the tempo showing no signs of subsiding and it was the visitors that plundered it on 63 minutes!


United left back, Chiwendu Ali hit a 35 yard free kick in Roberto Carlos-esque fashion and Adekunle stood no chance but the effort clattered against the cross bar (for the third time on the day) but Igbinoba, displaying the instincts of a cold-blooded poacher, was on hand to turn home the rebound from close range.


It was a cruel body blow for the hosts who had shown genuine signs of hurling themselves back into the contest.


They however continued to plug on and the exciting Salefu scored a late consolation, a smart finish from inside the box after he swivelled on a six pence delightfully but at that stage, there was only going to be one winner of a game that represented excellent advertisement for the NPFL.


United rose four places on the log to 14th on the log having now amassed 45 points from 34 matches while Remo Stars officially got relegated after the same number of matches as they remain bottom with 29 points.




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