Atuloma strikes late to deny MFM




Football

Emeka Atuloma’s brilliantly-struck effort in the second half helped Rivers United rescue a share of the spoils at MFM in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on Monday.

The midfielder fired home an unstoppable effort from outside the penalty area to peg back the hosts in an exciting contest decided at the Agege Stadium, Lagos.

MFM shot into the lead in deserved fashion in the 17th minute when sloppy play allowed midfielder, Chukwuka Onuwa ample time and space to aim a wonderful pass to Sikiru Olatunbosun.

The forward did not panic as he struck low and hard past the Rivers United goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi to the delight of the home faithful.

The goal galvanized the hosts as they surged forward with wave after wave of attacking forays in a bid to add a second before the interval.

Olatunbosun should have completed his brace on the half hour but dragged a fiercely-hit effort wide off Rotimi’s right hand post after some exemplary work by the outstanding Onuwa.

Olalekan Gabriel, starting in place of the injured United captain, Festus Austine, came to rescue of his side on two occasions with heroic, identical goal-saving interceptions to deny Nojeem Akinyemi in the 40th minute and Olatunbosun, four minutes later.

The visitors’ best chance to level matters in the first stanza was in the 27th minute when Emeka Ogbugh fired a 25-yard free kick into Orbit.

Three minutes later, a gilt-edged chance fell to Obomate Frederick who struck his half volley from outside the penalty area well wide.

The last time Rivers United failed to score in a competitive game was on March 11 so a response was always on the cards after the break.

So it proved as the ‘Pride of Rivers’ produced a sparkling second-half display that probably deserved maximum points.

Big forward, Osita Chikere was outstanding, holding up the ball to perfection and bringing the lively duo of Ogbugh and Ochowechi ‘Oche’ Salefu into the game as the hosts consistently began to retreat more and more into their half.

Obomate enjoyed two chances that marginally missed the hosts’ goal within a nine-minute period after the break while Ogbugh’s audacious strike on the hour from 40 yards out failed to hoodwink Abayomi Folarin in the MFM goal.

United continued to dictate the play and create the more dangerous situations but it was a premonition that the hosts failed to heed.

Seventeen minutes from time, United levelled the scores in spectacular fashion when the overlapping Atuloma rifled home an unstoppable effort from outside the box.

It was the least the visitors deserved for a display of verve and endeavour and only a shocking display of profligacy late on ensured that the points were split at the ‘Soccer Temple’.

Ogbugh had chances in the 74th and 81st minutes that looked easier to put away while Salefu saw his goal-bound shot cleared off the line in the 77th minute with time appearing to stand still.

The visiting bench prematurely leapt off the dugout in celebration, five minutes from time when Salefu somehow miscued his effort from six yards after he was impressively set up by Ogbugh.

It was a shocking miss (even though it missed the target by mere millimetres) they were almost made to rue as Olatunbosun, against the run of play, spun on a six pence at the other end, before riling a half-volley inches over the bar from the edge of the Rivers United penalty area.

It was a pulsating contest that ebbed and flowed; a wonderful advert for the NPFL but both sides, in all honesty, will be pondering what might have been.

Technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma admitted that his side could have closed out the win with a little bit more cold-bloodedness displayed in the final third.

“After we equalized, we had so many chances to win the game and that is something we have to work on in our subsequent games,” Eguma said in a chat with our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.


United climbed to fourth on the NPFL standings with 27 points from 18 matches while MFM now sit in ninth place on the log with 23 points from 15 games.



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