Thrills in Ilorin as Kwara United, Rivers United share spoils
By Clement Nwankpa Jr
Kwara United and Rivers United played out a thrilling 1-1 draw in a Matchday 20 tie played at the Kwara Stadium Ilorin.
It was a game involving teams with contrasting fortunes. While Afonja Warriors are battling to avoid dropping into the relegation zone, the Pride of Rivers aimed at sustaining the pressure on Lobi Stars and Plateau United at the top.
There is a flurry of activities at the lower rung of the ladder and any team that sleep will slip. So maximum points in this tie were crucial to Kwara United.
Meanwhile, Rivers United, who had already won twice on the road this season knew how vital good results away are at this stage of the season considering the forms of the pacesetting duo.
After winning 1-0 in the reverse fixture on Matchday 19, Rivers United fancied their chances in Ilorin but the hosts were not willing to shift grounds.
The game started with Kwara United on the front foot with target man Alao Danbani giving the visitors all sorts of problems.
From the third minute when his header off Taiwo Salaudeen’s cross was cuddled by Rivers United goalkeeper, Ospino Egbe, Danbani posed the biggest threat in Rivers box in the first half.
Kwara United’s pressure paid off in the 15th minute as Rivers United’s Michael Enaruna handled the ball in the box. Dede Muoghara converted the resultant penalty two minutes later.
The hosts sustained the pressure and in the 22nd minute, Danbani ghosted in to meet Philip Ozor’s cross. His header hit the turf then bounced over Ospino but the keeper reacted swiftly to parry first to the upright and into corner.
Kwara United looked the likeliest to get the next goal but against the run of play, in the 41st minute, Enaruna latched unto Cletus Emotan’s delivery to blast past Kwara goalkeeper Abdullateef Ishola.
Two minutes after resumption, Abdulwaheed Afolabi’s header off Salaudeen’s cross was parried into corner by Ospino.
The hosts kept pushing and in the 50th minute, Salaudeen’s speculative long range shot went wide.
In the 52nd minute, came, arguably the miss of the game. Issah Saidu’s chip into the box had beaten Ospino. Isaiah Ejeh needed to just guide into an empty net but nodded wide.
There was a replica of this miss three minutes later. Again, it was Saidu’s cross put on the plate, this time for Danbani who nodded wide.
Unrelenting, Kwara United kept mounting the pressure. In the 63rd minute, Afolabi had the keeper at his mercy but just as he pulled the trigger, defender Kunle Odunlami blocked into corner.
But in a rare Rivers United attack, Esor Nelson cut in from the right, then shot with his left but Ishola gathered the ball at a second attempt.
The hosts weren’t finished and in the 89th minute, Issa Magaji’s goalbound effort was tipped into corner by Ospino.
Rivers United were presented with a late opportunity to grab a precious away win in added time. With the hosts surging forward for the winner, Malachi Ohawume teed up Esor on the counter. Esor came face-to-face with Ishola who provided the vital block to deny the winger.
The hosts may have craved for the maximum points but after this late Esor miss, they were consoled that it could have been worse. The visitors who on the balance of play, had to hang on for a point, ironically, felt they should have notched a third away victory.
Ultimately, the result appeared fair enough.
Kwara United: Abdullateef Ishola, Taiwo Salaudeen, Dede Muoghara, Issa Magaji, Christopher Nwanze, Isaiah Ejeh, Issah Saidu (Joshua Agboola 72′), Sikiru Kamaldeen (Stephen Adah 73′), Alao Danbani (Ajibola Otegbeye 57′), Philip Ozor, Abdulwaheed Afolabi
Substitutes not used: Emmanuel Iwu, Samuel Ganda, Fabian Nworie, Alamayo Abdulrazaq
Cautions: Ospino Egbe (45′), Bakary Bamba (86′)
Rivers United: Ospino Egbe, Kazie Enyinnaya, Bamba Bakary, Lookman Binuyo, Kunle Odunlami, Temple Emekayi, Michael Enaruna, Stephen Gopey, Junior Osaghae (Malachi Ohawune 77′), Oshobe Shuji (Esor Nelson 66′), Cletus Emotan (Azubuike Egwuekwe 76′)
Substitutes not used: Akande Abiodun, Chigozie Ihunda, Frederick Obamate, Ishaq Rafiu
Kwara United 1-1 Rivers United
On target 5-3