Rivers United suffer second defeat of season at Sunshine Stars

A fourth-minute goal by Leonard Ugochukwu condemned Rivers United to their second defeat of the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season as Sunshine Stars made a winning return to the Akure Township Stadium on Thursday.

The league leaders had lost once all season – a 1-0 defeat away at title rivals Plateau United in February – before the Matchday 24 meeting against Sunshine Stars.

However, Ugochukwu clinically headed home from a free kick by Ikenna Cooper to give Sunshine Stars what has become a routine early lead this season. The visitors nearly got an instant equalizer when Ishaq Rafiu was found in a vintage position but the former Shooting Stars forward took too many touches that brought the chance to nought.

Both teams made several changes in the second half but none further influenced the scoreline as the Owena Whales won their first game at their traditional home ground this season.

Sunshine Stars head coach Emmanuel Deutsch believed the occasion of his team’s return to Akure affected their performance.

“Coming back to Akure was not easy on the boys. They wanted to impress the fans. It affected them with the chances they failed to convert, but we will improve on that,” he told www.npfl.ng

Meanwhile, Rivers United technical adviser Stanley Eguma blamed his team’s defeat on profligacy. “We missed a lot of scoring chances today. That was our bane and it is normal in the game of football. So I congratulate our opponents for today’s win,” he said.

“Everybody knows the league is not over. We lost points today and it will not help our ambition, but that is not the end. We will go back and re-strategize. It is not over until it is over,” Eguma concluded.

The win lifts Sunshine Stars to the sixth position on the NPFL standings while Rivers United maintained their top spot, and a four-point advantage over second-placed Plateau United.

SUNSHINE STARS XI
21. Mustapha Lawal, 4. Habib Yakub, 11. Leonard Ugochukwu, 13. Ike Brandon (Olalusi 59′), 16. Ejike Uzoechi, 17. Azeez Ajagbe, 18. Ikenna Cooper, 28. Anthony Anioke, 30. Ebonam Nwogbaga (Jimoh 59′), 31. Onyeka Nwaiwu, 33. Mutiu Dauda (Chilekwu 48′)

SUBS
1. David Ariyo, 3. Chigozie Chilekwu, 4. Chinedu Ozor, 10. Sunday Abe, 24. Koffi Adjoumani, 34. Jide Jimoh, 26. Michael Olalusi, 36. Joshua Erukusin, 36. Promise Awaosanmi

GOAL: Leonard Ugochukwu 4′

YELLOW CARD: Habib Yakub 35′, Chigozie Chilekwu 56′, Leonard Ugochukwu 90′

RED CARD: NIL

RIVERS UNITED XI
16. Sochima Victor, 6. Kazie Enyinnaya, 27. Chidiebube Duru, 11. Morice Chukwu, 5. Ndasi Kadiang Denis, 14. Fabian Nworie, 12. Ishaq Rafiu Kayode (Ovoke 80′), 31. Chijioke Akuneto (Olatunbosun 88′), 28. Nyima Nwagua, 18. Chiamaka Madu (Esor 80′), 20. Onoja Joseph

SUBS
1. Afelokhai Theophilus, 4. Yusuf Omotayo Sikiru, 7. Fortune Omoniwari, 8. Esor Nelson Okwa, 9. Ovoke Benard, 13. Lookman Binuyo, 15. Bamba Bakary, 29. Sikiru Olatunbosun, 33. Temple Emekayi

GOAL: NIL

YELLOW CARD: Nyima Nwagua 30′, Ishaq Rafiu 36′,

RED CARD: NIL

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