A late fight back from Rivers United fail to yield dividends as Nigeria Tornadoes prevailed by the odd goal in five in a tempestuous but hugely-entertaining Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest decided at the Lokoja Stadium on Sunday.
The big news from the United camp before kick off was the demotion to the bench, of former Super Eagles goal keeper, Sunday Rotimi with Godwin Anyalogu preferred in his place.
In Rotimi’s absence, United conceded three, for the first time this season but Anyalogu was not culpable for any.
In a first half that ebbed and flowed, both sides traded goal scoring chances with the hosts finally taking the lead in the third minute of stoppage time.
United defender, Gabriel Olalekan, who had proved to be his side’s best player of the half, inexplicably attempted a bicycle kick at the edge of his own half but inadvertently caught Ammeh Wilfred in the face.
Olalekan’s carelessness was to cost United as Ismaila Gata stepped up and curled home a beauty from 25 yards past a diving Anyalogu with what proved to be the last kick of a brilliant half of football.
The goal on the stroke of half time was a psychological blow which the United players failed to recover from as the luckless Olalekan diverted Gabriel Wassa’s long range effort past a stranded Anyalogu in the 58th minute for the hosts’ second goal.
Two-nil quickly became three-nil and remarkably, Olalekan was again at fault.
The former Sharks man mistimed a defensive header and Jackson Daniel smacked home at the second time of asking despite Anyalogu’s best efforts to keep out the strike.
The United trainer, Stanley Eguma responded by throwing in attacking substitutions which delivered rich and dramatic late rewards.
Daniel Israel and Guy Kuemian were thrown into the fray and they repaid their trainers’ faith with late goals that threw the cat among the pigeons among the Tornadoes faithful.
It proved to be too little, too late though an Ayobami Asekunowo expulsion, at the death, for a second bookable offence saw United’s late fight back end in yet another away defeat.
Tornadoes’ assistant coach, Bala Mohammed blamed ‘tactical mistakes’ for his side’s near capitulation of monumental proportions late on in the contest.
“We had some minor tactical errors especially from the action of our players when they lost the ball.
“After we got the third goal, our player got carried away; most of them.
“They only played when they had the ball and stopped playing when they did not.
“Rivers United then began dominating the midfield with four midfielders playing against our three and that was how they got their goals within a five-minute period,” Mohammed told RIVERS UNITED MEDIA.
On his part, the United technical manager, Stanley Eguma said he will try to ‘correct mistakes’ from their next league fixture.
“We started quite well but we conceded that goal from a free kick at the stroke of half time.
“In the second half, we conceded two quick goals as my players lost their heads.
“The good thing was the fight back but we will try to correct our mistakes from our next match,” Eguma said.
Overall, the game was a brilliant advert for Nigerian football with Tornadoes moving up four places up the standings to 11th place with seven points from six matches while United dropped two places and now occupy seventh place with nine points from six matches.