Champions, Enyimba and Rivers United played out an exciting scoreless draw in the final game of match day 21 of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) this evening.
The game which was originally billed to hold at the Umuahia Township stadium on Wednesday was moved forward by 24 hours as Abia Warriors faced Ikorodu United in another NPFL game at the same venue a day earlier.
Enyimba trainer, Paul Aigbogu surprisingly left trusted goal keeper, Theophilus Afelokahi and set piece specialist, Chima Akas out of the match day squad while Ike Thankgod and Ikechukwu Ibenegbu were only deemed good enough to start from the bench.
Mfon Udoh, Daniel Etor, Femi Thomas, Chinedu Udoji and Nzube Anaezemba were however a slew of stars that started for the seven-time champions.
The Rivers United technical manager, Stanley Eguma however had a surprise up his sleeves as he handed former Warri Wolves attacker, Onyekachi Okafor his debut, to telling effect.
Enyimba almost scored inside the opening 30 seconds as Udoh peeled off Chiwendu Ali on the right before watching in despair as Sunday Rotimi easily picked up his cross with Ifeanyi Anaemena lurking.
United responded with two quick chances with the second on 10 minutes almost resulting in a goal.
Crisp passing involving Okafor and Bernard Ovoke freed Ivoirian forward, Guy Kuemian who snapped at his effort as the chance went up in smoke.
Two minutes later, the visitors threatened again with an Ovoke free kick which failed to really trouble Thomas in the Enyimba goal.
Enyimba then took over, dominating for most parts of the half but Pyagbara, Dare Ojo, Etor (on two occasions), Uwadiegwu and Uche John all failed to breach the United back line.
The closest the People’s Elephant came to breaking the deadlock in the first half was in the 42nd minute but Rotimi, who was having a blinder of a game, produced a spectacular double save right out of the top drawer to deny Pyagbara and then Anaezemba in quick succession.
The second half matched the first in terms of entertainment value as both sides continued to go all out for the win.
Udoh almost scored in the 48th minute but his effort was too feeble to beat the impressive Rotimi who performed a routine save to keep the score barren.
Enyimba were to have their best chance four minutes after the restart when Olalekan Gabriel stepped up to perform a goal line clearance to deny Etor who was already poised to race away in celebration.
United responded with a brilliant chance of their own five minutes later with Guy firing wide following good work by Ofem Inah.
The chances continued to come thick and fast with Udoh presented with an opening to lob Rotimi in the 55th minute but the United defence came to the rescue of their last man who failed to read the danger in a rare moment of indecision.
Rotimi redeemed himself with a big save off an Udoh volley in the 65th minute after impressive work by substitute, Musa Najere.
A minute later, the United goal keeper produced an even better save to deny Udoh again with the striker’s deft flick from Najere’s pin-point delivery seemingly destined for the bottom corner.