Wasiu Jimoh’s brilliant free-kick proved decisive as Rivers United overpowered Niger Tornadoes in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on Sunday.
The forward rifled home with fearsome force after Cletus Emotan nonchalantly rolled an indirect freekick onto his path from 25 yards on the half hour in the well-fought contest decided at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
United are now up to fifth on the NPFL standings with 19 points, just two off the playoff places having played less than one game more than the sides in the third and fourth positions on the log, Enyimba International and Wikki Tourists respectively.
The win was the least the Port Harcourt side deserved as they completely dominated the first half and should have taken the lead in the fourth minute when Ossy Martins’ acrobatic effort just about sailed over Aliko Mustapha’s far post.
Cletus Emotan came even closer a minute later but watched in despair as his curling effort from the edge of the box left Aliko transfixed but flew inches wide.
Martins, Jimoh and Emotan missed other glorious opportunities for the hosts before the deadlock was broken just after the half hour.
Emotan’s nifty footwork at the edge of the Tornadoes area ended in a cynical foul and a free kick and the visitors were made to ponder what might have been.
In a move straight out of the training ground, Emotan rolled the ball towards the onrushing Jimoh who, without breaking strike, hammered an unstoppable volley that the shell shocked Aliko was never going to keep out.
The net bulged before the Tornadoes captain moved a muscle as the home support erupted in hysteria.
Tornadoes improved after the break but Osondu Jonathan’s close-range attempt, after the United back line displayed an uncharacteristic lapse in concentration, proved to be their best chance of the evening.
“We played well and should have scored more goals but the most important thing was the win we recorded today,” technical manager of Rivers United FC, Stanley Eguma told newsmen after the game.
On his part, the Niger Tornadoes head coach, Hamza Abara remained bullish about his side’s chances of survival despite being seven points away from safety and firmly rooted to the bottom of the table having amassed a paltry ten points from 14 games this term.
“We will not be relegated and I am very sure about this,” he said.
United will next travel to Katsina where they will face Katsina United at the Karkanda Stadium on Sunday.