A controversial first-half penalty set the tone at the Mohammadu Dikko Stadium as Katsina United defeated Rivers United 2-1 in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on Sunday.
Centre referee, Chibuzo Udeh stunned even the home fans when he pointed to the spot on 18 minutes as the mystified Rivers United players surrounded the official, ostensibly requesting to know why he (the referee) had pointed to the spot.
“I still don’t understand why the referee awarded that penalty,” the Rivers United technical manager, Stanley Eguma told newsmen.
“No Katsina United player appealed for it, I didn’t see any infringement but the referee awarded it (the penalty).
“We just have to pick ourselves up from it and focus on our next game,” he said.
Tasiu Lawal stepped up nervelessly, sent Abiodun Akande the wrong way from 12 yards to give Katsina United the lead on 20 minutes.
Six minutes after the restart, the hosts, against the run of play, doubled their advantage through Usman Barau who rifled into the bottom corner from close range following some uncharacteristically tentative bit of defending by the Rivers United captain, Festus Austine.
Rivers United, to their credit, never threw in the towel and proceeded to dominate the rest of the half.
The Port Harcourt club deservedly halved the deficit in the 68th minute with a goal of the very highest quality as a brilliant passing move carved open the Katsina United defense.
Rivers United’s best player on the day, Cletus Emotan then took his time to pick his spot, finishing off in cold-blooded fashion from eight yards to send the nerves jangling among the home faithful.
Try as they did, the visitors failed to get the equalizer despite creating several openings as the hosts got their noses over the line and record an important win.
Head coach of Katsina United, Abdullahi Usman Biffo was understandably relieved at full time as he praised his charges for the win.
“I told the boys before the game that we could not afford to drop points at home at this stage of the season and I am happy we got the win,” he said.
Rivers United currently occupies the seventh spot in the league with 19 points from 14 matches while Katsina United climbed to fifth on the log with 21 points from 15 matches