- Published on Sunday, 05 March 2017 21:36
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By Toyin Ibitoye
Esosa Igbinoba's first minute strike for Rivers United proved crucial in the heavyweight clash of Nigeria's surviving continental campaigners in the NPFL Matchday 12 fixture in Port Harcourt on Sunday.
Just as referee Abdullahi Ago signaled for proceedings to begin, Rivers launched an attack through their left flank which resulted in a corner kick.
Bernard Ovoke worked out a short corner kick to Esosa Igbinoba on the edge of the crowded box, beating off the half-hearted challenge of a Rangers player to fire a low shot pass Itodo Akor in goal for the Flying Antelopes.
Immediately after the goal, Ovoke would have added another but for the magnificent block by left back Chidiebere Okolie as Rangers weathered the early storm of attack from the home side that had smelled blood.
Once they settled into their stride, the league champions took over proceedings with the usual suspects, Godwin Aguda, Obinna Nwobodo, Chaimaka Madu, Daniel Etor and Charles Henlong keeping the midfield of Rivers United busy with some delightful passing and neat interplay.
Rangers' big forward Bobby Clement was kept ineffective by the hardworking duo of Austin Festus and Ayobami Asekunowo in the heart of the home team's central defence while Emeka Atuloma and Christian Weli formed an impregnable wall, sitting in front of the back four.
Both teams were restricted to the midfield as neither side could produce the creativity needed to have the breakthrough in the final third.
In the second half, Rivers United introduced Emeka Ogbuh, Yusuf Jaiyeola and Frederick Obomate for Bernard Ovoke, Lukman Mohammed and Esosa Igbinoba while Rangers introduced Chinedu Udeagha, Tope Olusesi and Fortune Omoniwari for Etor, Madu and Bobby Clement.
Both teams clearly produced a plan to cancel the other out and it was a free kick in added time by Rangers' Osas Okoro and brilliantly tipped over the bar by the ageless Sunday Rotimi that gave the home team a little scare.
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