Ohawume inspires Rivers United to first win of the season

By Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam

Rivers United finally registered their first win of the 2019/20 NPFL season after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Rangers International in front of their fans at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium on Matchday 4.

The introduction of Malachi Ohawume in the second half proved to be the game changer for the Pride of Rivers in the midweek encounter as the forward scored the winner two minutes after. It was a goal the home side desperately needed since Ibrahim Olawoyin’s tap-in for Rangers had cancelled Bakary Bamba’s opener.

The last time both sides met at this same venue in May, the hosts enjoyed a monumental 3-0 victory, which marked the first time in over a year that they scored more than one goal in a game. Ohawume also scored in that game.

Unfortunately the ‘Pride of Rivers’ has failed to sustain that momentum, managing a poor record of only four goals in nine games prior to this latest meeting.

Technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma made five changes to the side that lost at FC IfeanyiUba on Sunday. The likes Akande Biodun, Lookman Binuyor and Kunle Odunlami were reinstated in the starting line-up after being dropped from the Match Day squad against FC Ifeanyi Ubah, with Fortune Omoniwari and Ifeanyi Onyeali also starting.

Fresh from a shock home defeat to MFM on Sunday, Rangers’ head coach Benedict Ugwu made six changes to his starting line-up. Attacking midfielder Kehinde Adedipe, who moved from Rivers United to Rangers before the commencement of this season, got the nod to start against his former side. He had only started one game for the Flying Antelopes prior, and was an unused substitute in the last two. While Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, popularly known as mosquito, was handed his first start of the season.

It was Omoniwari who got the first shot at goal via a freekick five minutes into the encounter, but his effort failed to threaten Rangers’ Ghanaian goalkeeper Seidu Mutawakilu. Three minutes later, Godspower Aniefiok beat his marker for pace down his right flank but his cross into United’s 18-yard box was intercepted by Shuji Oshobe.

Rangers soon threatened again when Ibenegbu’s freekick found Chiamaka Madu inside the penalty area but the latter’s acrobatic effort was easily gathered by Biodun. By this time, the flag had already been raised for offside.

However, it was the Pride of Rivers that would go on to celebrate the first goal of the game when Bamba sent Mutawakilu the wrong way from the spot. A through ball by midfielder Shuji Oshobe found Ifeanyi Onyeali in a dangerous position. Onyeali was brought down by Mutawakilu after he had beaten the goalkeeper and looked poised to score. Oshobe, who gave the through ball, got injured in the process and had to be replaced.

Rangers coach Ugwu brought in Ibrahim Olawoyin to replace Ibenegbu five minutes to the end of the first half, and the former Abia Warriors man got the equalizer for the visitors in the second half. Isaac Loute had delivered a throw-in into the penalty area, which Rivers United captain Festus Austin cleared poorly, and the ball fell for Olawoyin, who fired beyond Biodun from close range in the 54th minute.

Eguma introduced Nelson Esor and then Ohawume. The chemistry between them reawakened the Rivers United attack. Ohawume got among the goals in the 74th minute, scoring his club’s first goal from open play this season. With about three United players lurking in Rangers penalty area, a long ball floated in, but the Rangers defender who first made contact with the ball headed it backward unto the path of Stephen Gopey, who then served a short pass to Ohawume. Ohawume in turn flicked the ball over Mutawakilu for his club’s third goal of the season.

The Pride of Rivers have now garnered five points out of a possible 12, while CAF Confederation Cup campaigners, Rangers return to their Cathedral with four points to their name from the same number of games.

Up next for Rivers United is a three-hour trip away to Warri Wolves on Sunday while Rangers International will welcome Akwa Starlets at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu.