Rivers United All Fired Up Ahead Of The New Season

Match Day one, Rivers United 1-0 Remo Stars (January 30, 2019, Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

This was rescheduled as Remo Stars, a newly-promoted side, was given special dispensation following the Nigeria National League (NNL) playoffs in Aba days before the regular NPFL season got underway.

The ‘Pride of Rivers’ dodged a huge bullet in this one they overcame a late Kunle Odunlami dismissal with Wasiu Jimoh notching the winner at the death to send the home faithful into fits of frenzy.

Match Day Two, Niger Tornadoes 1-1 Rivers United (January 16, 2019, Bako Kontagora Stadium, Minna)

This was actually United’s first game of the season and one that the Port Harcourt side was unfortunate not to claim maximum points from.

Eric Asamoah-Frimpong gave the hosts a scarcely-deserved lead on 66 minutes minute with the stunned audience, largely dominated by Tornadoes fans pinching themselves in disbelief.

United however went down the other end and quickly levelled matters less than 45 seconds later when Cletus Emotan’s corner was prodded home by marksman extraordinaire, Ossy Martins.

It was the least the Port Harcourt side deserved from a display of verve, energy, endeavor and enterprise.

Match Day Three, Rivers United 1-0 Katsina United (March 6, 2019, Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

United were struggling for goals but keeping things extremely air-tight at the back.

In keeping with the script, Ossy Martins converted a 10th minute penalty to deliver maximum points to the hosts against a surprisingly plucky Katsina United side.

Match Day Four, Sunshine Stars 1-1 Rivers United (January 23, 2019, Akure Township Stadium, Akure)

Traditionally, Akure has never been a happy hunting ground for United but this time, the Port Harcourt boys were determined to right wrongs from previous seasons.

Pint-sized terror, Fuad Ekelejuoti thought, just like the majority of the home faithful, that it was going to be business as usual when he struck impressively, four minutes after the break but the ‘Pride of Rivers’ had other ideas.

Wasiu Jimoh equalized on 54 minutes and there was to be no more scoring until the end of an extremely tense encounter.

Match Day Five, Rivers United 1-0 MFM (January 27, 2019, Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

United kept up their unbeaten start to the season with a narrow win over the ‘Olukoya Boys’ in Port Harcourt.

The luckless Austine Opara diverted a cross into his own net for the game’s decisive goal on 59 minutes.

Match Day Six, Enyimba 2-0 Rivers United (February 3, 2019, Enyimba International Stadium, Aba)

Rivers United finally tasted defeat for the first time on match day six when they faced the might of the country’s most successful club and eventual champions, Enyimba International.

It was a beautiful game, full of flair and technique but well-struck goals, either side of the break, gave the ‘Peoples’ Elephant’ a richly deserved victory.

Abdulrahman Bashir struck first for the Aba club on 37 minutes before the win was confirmed in the 87th minute by Wasiu Alalade who netted one for the ages.

Match Day Seven, Rivers United 0-0 Kwara United (February 6, 2019, Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

The loss of momentum is a terrible thing in footballing terms and Rivers United realized this, first hand, in their next game after their first league defeat – the reverse in Aba, three days earlier.

A resolute Kwara United side refused to be beaten in Port Harcourt as the Illorin club defended stoutly for the majority of the contest and ultimately held out for a famous point in Port Harcourt.

Match Day Eight, Lobi Stars 2-1 Rivers United March 20, 2019, Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi)

This was a very strange contest which United dominated for most parts of the first half but went behind just before the break when Sikiru Alimi smacked home on the stroke of half time.

It was a psychological body blow from which the Port Harcourt side never recovered.

Stephen Michael’s thumping header from a corner on 53 minutes represented the death knell with Cletus Emotan’s exquisite free kick in the 77th minute representing nothing more than scant consolation.

Match Day Nine, Rivers United 3-0 Enugu Rangers (May 2, 2019, Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

The worst time to face a Lion is when it is wounded!
Smitten United arrested their free-fall and shocking slide with a stunning 3-0 win over high-flying Enugu Rangers in Port Harcourt on match day nine.

It was unquestionably United’s best performance of the season (in the league) in a display that characterized flair, deadly efficiency, desire, spirit, composure and the embodiment of the collective over individual talent.

Malachi Ohawume’s beauty on 36 minutes got the scoring underway before Wasiu Jimoh made it 2-0 on 59 minutes.

The scoring was completed by ‘The Professor’, Nelson Esor who rounded off an electrifying counter attacking move on 76 minutes as the sleeping giants began to show signs of stirring from hibernation.

Match Day Ten, Bendel Insurance 1-1 Rivers United (February 20, 2019. Uniben Sports Complex, Benin)

This was a very controversial game with a hotly-disputed goal chalked off in the end.

The hosts completely battered United in the first half with the only surprise being that the visitors were still in the contest at the half way stage with Michael Ugwu’s 13th minute goal separating the sides.

Slowly but surely, the visitors began to claw their way back into the game with Ossy Martins firing the ‘Pride of Rivers’ back into contention with a well-taken equalizer, four minutes after the break.

Match Day Eleven, Wikki Tourists 2-0 Rivers United (March 17, 2019. Pantami Stadium, Gombe)

This was probably United’s worst performance of the season.

The Port Harcourt side started well and could have taken the lead inside the quarter hour when Christian Weli headed inches wide off a Peter Ubakanma free kick but it was practically all Wikki afterwards as the hosts won at a canter.
Abba Umar’s strike on 19 minutes and Adeshina Gata’s 70th minute effort proved decisive in a game the visitors would be keep to keep away from memory.

Match Day Twelve, Rivers United 1-2 Wikki Tourists (March 24, 2019. Yakubu Gown Stadium)

A stunning result this was as Wikki became the first and only side to complete a double over United this term.

Saidu Abdullahi and Hassan Musa scored inside the opening 23 minutes to send even their most dedicated supporters into a state of shock.

As expected, United battled back with Ossy Martins netting in the 37th minute.
Try as they did, the hosts failed to score again and this loss, their only one at home that season, was to come back to haunt them terribly.

Match Day Thirteen, Remo Stars 0-1 Rivers United (March 31, 2019. Gateway International Stadium, Sagamu)

Rivers United is characterized by rapid responses especially when backs are against the wall and this was again highlighted in Sagamu as the Port Harcourt Boys stormed to their first away win of the season against Remo Stars.
United did not deserve to win the game.

They did not even deserve to draw it on the balance of play in both halves as Remo Stars dominated from start to finish.

United’s goalkeeper, Abiodun Akande was making his first start of the season after suffering a horrific leg break during a league game against Wikki Tourists on July 23, 2017.

His inclusion proved decisive as he made no less than seven top class saves in one of the stand out performances by any player in the NPFL season.

United did a smash and grab when substitute, Justice Charles hammered home a brilliant effort in off the crossbar to leave the hosts crestfallen.

Match Day Fourteen, Rivers United 1-0 Niger Tornadoes (April 7, 2019. Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

United consolidated their hard-fought win in Sagamu seven days earlier with a deserved victory at home to the Tornadoes from Minna.
Wasium Jimoh was United’s match winner on with a well-taken goal on 31 minutes.

Match Day Fifteen, Katsina Stadium 2-1 Rivers United (April 14, 2019. Karkanda Stadium, Katsina)

The Karkanda has never been a happy hunting ground for United and they lost in their latest visit to a fired up home side.

Tasiu Lawal’s hotly-disputed penalty in the 18th minute was followed by Usma Barua’s 68th minute effort which gave the hosts a two goal cushion.

The visitors halved the deficit in the 51st minute through Cletus Emotan but try as they did, the equalizer proved impossible to find.

Match Day Sixteen, Rivers United 1-1 Sunshine Stars (April 21, 2019. Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

This was the most controversial game played by United last season. The hosts deserved to win by at least two clear goals but in the end the visitors got a share of the spoils they scarcely deserved.

Ossy Martins’ penalty on 69 minutes gave the hosts a deserved lead but then things imploded spectacularly from United’s perspective.

A rush of blood to the head saw United’s best player, Bright Onyedikachi receive a straight Red card with seven minutes remaining.

Sunshine Stars were then awarded an extremely controversial penalty with six minutes remaining and Ajibola Otegbeye converted to even the scores.

Match Day Seventeen, MFM 1-0 Rivers United Sunshine Stars (April 21, 2019. Agege Stadium, Lagos)

Another game which United barely deserved to lose again decided by yet another hotly-disputed penalty.

Chijioke Akuneto converted for the hosts for on five minutes to give the Lagos side the advantage.

United dominated the majority of the remaining 85 minutes but failed to score.

Match Day Eighteen, Rivers United 1-0 Enyimba Sunshine Stars (May 8, 2019. Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

A fiercely-contest game against the eventual champions, Enyimba International who came into the fixture unbeaten from their previous 11 matches.

United got the job done with Ossy Martins dispatching the winner on 13 minutes.

Match Day Nineteen, Rivers United 1-0 Enyimba Sunshine Stars (May 8, 2019. Illorin Township Stadium, Illorin)

United was building a head of steam going into the business end of the season and claimed a priceless point in Illorin against Kwara United.

The hosts marginally shaded it but both sides created enough chances and could have claimed a win.

In the end, a draw was just about the right result.

Match Day Twenty, Rivers United 1-1 Lobi Stars (May 16, 2019.Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt)

This was as important as they came but United just about fell short in a game that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Ossy Martins missed a first half penalty as the visitors scored with their first real chance of the game, with the luckless Kunle Odunlami’s diverting a cross into his own goal, much against the of play.

Ademola Adebambo equalized for the 61st minute but the visitors defended stoutly to claim the point which ultimately proved crucial for their qualification for the playoffs.

Match Day Twenty One, Enugu Rangers 1-0 Rivers United (May 20, 2019. Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu)

This was another dramatic with the result doing little justice in telling the story of the entire game.

It was a high stakes game that ebbed and flowed.

United played a disciplined counter attacking game and came extremely close to taking the lead in the closing stages of the game.

Wasiu Jimoh however missed inexplicably from point blank range with a gaping goal at his mercy with Rangers making them rue that missed opportunity when Chidera Ezeh scored the winner with just five minutes remaining.

Match Day Twenty two, Rivers United 1-0 Insurance (May 16, 2019. Sharks FC Stadium, Port Harcourt)

This was United’s most important game of the season.

Defeat meant relegation to the second tier and the hosts knew there was no margin for error.

They started well and had no less than three chances in the opening five minutes but failed to take advantage as Insurance, who also needed to avoid defeat to preserve their top flight status, grew in stature.

It took a Konan N’gouan Ruffin penalty in the 71st minute to calm frayed nerves and send the home fans into raptures at the end of the game.

That goal by Konan was arguably United’s most important of the season as it saved the ‘Pride of Rivers’ from the ignominy of relegation and set the tone for a roller coast ride in the AITEO Cup.

Rivers United AITEO CUP 2019 Season Review

Round of 64, Rivers United 4-0 FC Timberloader (Lafia City Stadium, Lafia. June 19, 2019)

Rivers United United got their 2019 AITEO Cup campaign off to a flyer with a hugely impressive one-sided 4-0 over FC Timberloader in Lafia.

Peter Ubakanma scored twice with Bright Onyedikachi scoring arguably the goal of the tournament.

The tricky winger, picked up a pass just inside the FC Timberloader half and proceeded on a mazy run which left no less than five defenders in his wake before showing ice-cold precision to fire into the bottom corner.

Ossy Martins completed the scoring just before the hour as ‘The Pride of Rivers’ duly took their foot off the gas as they cruised into the round of 32.

Round of 32, Rivers United 3-0 FC Akwa United (Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu. June 15, 2019)

Rivers United stunned pre-tournament favorites, Akwa United 3-0 in Enugu to march into the last 16 of the competition.

Kehinde Adedipe opened the scoring for Rivers United in the ninth minute and Bright Onyedikachi continued his rich vein of form by netting his second in as many matches with a well-taken strike on 55 minutes.

Ossy Martins made it 3-0 in the 75th minutes as United marched on in Nigeria’s oldest football competition.

Round of 16, Rivers United 2-0 Warri Wolves (Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa. June 23, 2019)

United had sent shock waves reverberating across the nation following their 3-0 win over Akwa United in the round of 32.

The Port Harcourt were duly installed as the favourites in their round of 16 clash against Bayelsa United and they delivered a professional performance in a 2-0 win in Yenagoa.

Ossy Martins opened the scoring for United in the 16th while Kehinde Adedipe completed the scoring on 65 minutes as the ‘Pride of Rivers’ reached the last eight for the first time since 2017.

Quarter finals, Rivers United 0-0 (5-3 PSO) Lobi Stars (Dipo Dina Stadium, Ijebu-Ode. June 28, 2019)

This was an emotionally-charged contest which went right down to the wire.
Lobi dominated in regulation time but failed to break through the United back line.

It was, in fairness, a game where clear cut chances were few and far between and it was only logical that the lottery of penalties decided the outcome in a very tense shootout.

Konan Ruffin, Temple Emekayi, Chigozie Ihunda and Bakary Bamba stepped up in nerveless fashion to convert United’s first four kicks in the shootout.

Lobi were however staring down the barrel after their first four kicks in the shootout.

Olamidare Ojo, Ebube Duru and Samuel Matthias all scored for the ‘Pride of Benue’ but a stunning save by Ovunda to deny Lobi’s first penalty taker, Sikiru Alimi meant that United’s fifth kick was the potential decider.

So it proved as the man for the big occasion, Ovunda stepped up to covert and put United into the semifinal.

Semifinals, Niger Tornadoes 2-1 Rivers United (Agege Stadium, Lagos. July 5, 2019)

So near yet so far!

This saying has never been as well-illustrated as it was in United’s semifinal against unheralded Niger Tornadoes.

The bookies had all given the win to the ‘Pride of Rivers’ following their exhilarating run to the semis but in the end,
Eric Frimpong shocked the sparse crowd in Agege by taking a scarcely-believable lead in the 13th minute.

It was the first goal United was conceding in the competition but they responded gamely and were back on level terms four minutes later when Kehinde Adedipe gave the ‘Pride of Rivers’ a deserved equalizer.

Dosso Saib’s exquisite free kick on the stroke of half time represented the final nail on United’s hurdle on an afternoon when everything that could possibly go wrong for them did.

A win would have handed United a ticket to represent Nigeria in the 2019-20 CAF Confederation Cup.

The gaffer’s thoughts (Azunda Stanley Eguma)

Last season was not a bad season. It was a very difficult league for almost every season. We did our best in the league and in the Federation (AITEO) Cup where we almost picked a continental ticket.

This season, we have to come all out to get what we didn’t last time out.

Warmest regards.

Sammy Wejinya

Media Officer/Director of Communications

Rivers United FC

Mobile: +234-806-347-3594

Twitter: @RiversUnitedFC and @samywejinya

Email: riversunitedfc71@gmail.com and sammiewejinya@gmail.com

Facebook: Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt

Official website: www.riversunitedfc.com.ng

Post Script: (for those NOT on the mailing lists): Media outlets interested in receiving regular correspondence about Rivers United FC should e-mail sammiewejinya@gmail.com.

For real time photos, videos and live text on matches request to be added to the club’s official Whatsaap channel via +234-806-347-3594.

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