By winning the topmost clash of Matchday 23 on Easter Monday, Rivers United maintained their four-point advantage at the summit of the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional League (NPFL).
Two goals by Ishaq Rafiu and Chiamaka Madu delivered the result against Enyimba at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt; a seeming response to the same scoreline achieved by Plateau United against Lagos side MFM 24 hours earlier.
River United’s match had been moved by 24 hours to allow the Pride of Rivers recover from their long trip to Katsina five days ago, where they beat Katsina United 1-0.
However, a modest River United head coach, Stanley Eguma says the title race is very much open.
Rivers United were aiming for a rare league double over the People’s Elephant and they got their noses in front in the 21st minute when Rafiu converted from the penalty spot after he had been upended by Enyimba captain Austin Oladapo.
United doubled their advantage in the 34th minute through Madu who bundled the ball home from close range after a moment of defensive uncertainty for the visitors.
Enyimba tried to claw their ways back into the game but were prevented from doing so by a resolute Rivers United side who had an answer for every question asked by the former league champions.
Rivers United tally is now 52 points from 23 matches.
But Eguma, a league winner in 2011 with the now defunct Dolphins FC, says nothing is guaranteed yet.
‘Like I will always say, it is not yet over’, he told www.npfl.ng.
‘The league is a marathon; you cannot say it is over when we have more than 15 games to play.
‘So, one cannot just begin to celebrate. We still have other tough opponents to play. For now, I think we’re on course and there’s a very big hope in the team that we can achieve’, Eguma further said.
Eguma, whose team travel to Akure to face Sunshine Stars on Thursday, said Rivers United are now a target for opposing teams and must be ready for that.
‘Look at Enyimba, if they can be playing like these in other matches, they won’t lose any games. But because it is Rivers United, they played with the last drop of their blood to get victory but we were more than determined to achieve our aim’, summed the former Enyimba assistant coach.
On Sunday, Buhari Ibrahim and Haggai Katoh delivered two first half goals to give Plateau United victory over MFM in Jos.
Ibrahim struck in the 23rd minute, while Katoh’s goal arrived 12 minutes later.’
In one of Saturday’s games, Shooting Stars walloped Lobi Stars 3-0. The fixture provided extra joy for the home side’s forward Emmanuel Lucky who grabbed his first set of goals.
Lucky, in his fourth appearance in Nigeria’s top flight, benefited from a poor clearance by Lobi Stars defence to net his first goal in the third minute.
The former Mighty Jets forward recorded his brace 15 minutes later by racing to head home from Malomo Taofeeq’s delightful free kick.
‘There were lots of expectations when I joined the team during the mid-season transfer window based on the position we were on the league standings. So, I am very happy to get these two goals. It will go a long way to help me and the team’, a delighted Lucky told www.npfl.ng
‘As a striker, I hope to help the team with more goals. I will keep working harder as I intend to help the team move higher on the league standings’, he further stated.
Ayo Adejubu emerged the bench to score a solo goal in the 80th minute as 3SC saw off Lobi Stars who had Tony Agbaji sent off on the brink of half time.
All Matchday 23 results: Nasarawa United 1-1 Remo Stars, Abia Warriors 1-1 Niger Tornadoes, Rangers 0-0 Sunshine Stars, Kano Pillars 0-0 Katsina United (match disrupted in the 69th minute), Gombe 1-1 Akwa United, Dakkada FC 2-1 Heartland, Wikki Tourists 1-1 Kwara United, Shooting Stars 3-0 Lobi Stars, Plateau United 2-0 MFM, Rivers United 2-0 Enyimba
Additional reports by LMC Media