Nigeria’s lone survivor in the continental club championship, Rivers United, returned to reckoning in the after a 1-0 win over Moroccan club, FUS Rabat on Wednesday in Port Harcourt.
Emeka Atuloma scored the game’s decisive goal, 19 minutes from the end, turning home Zoumana Doumbia’s free kick with the FUS defence failing to clear their lines, to hand three crucial points to the hosts.
United had the better goal scoring opportunities in a cagey first half but few were of a clear-cut nature.
Emeka Ogbugh was the first to have a sight of the FUS goal but he shot wildly in the 16th minute after goalkeeper, Ayoub Skouma successfully foiled John Odumegwu’s attacking run on intent.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ began the second period on the front foot and were almost ahead two minutes after the restart when Ogbugh rose highest in the opposition half to head Obomate Frederick’s corner inches wide.
Substitute, Onoriode Odah, full of running and activity all afternoon, shot wide from a tight angle seconds later after showing FUS’ Elmehdi El Basil a clean pair of heels as United introduced urgency, hitherto missing in a largely-dour first half, into their game.
Atuloma was to decide matters in the 71st minute as he reacted in lightening fashion to steer home from two yards amidst claims by the visitors he was in an offside position.
FUS, previously content with sitting back and containing wave after wave of Rivers’ attacks, then altered their tactics dramatically, playing offensive with speed and intelligence, in a bid to hurl themselves back into the contest.
They almost claimed an equalizer in the 86th minute when an uncharacteristic Festus Austine error allowed Abdelssalam Benjelloun have a clear sight of goal.
The Moroccan duly curled a left-footed effort that seemed destined for the bottom corner only for the Rivers United goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi to produce an extraordinary save to push the ball away for a corner.
It was a huge let off for the Nigerian side as the Stadium held its collective breath.
The win means Rivers United and all other three sides in Group A, FUS Rabat, Club Africain and Kampala CCA are now level on three points after two rounds of matches.
Stanley Eguma (Head Coach, Rivers)
The victory was hard earned. I commend the players for their performance even as the game became tougher and tougher. My players respected FUS Rabat too much and that affected our game. I expected them to put the ball on ground based on the height of our opponents but I think they were carried and that put much pressure on us.
The Moroccan are experienced and have been in this business longer, though much goals were expected the most important thing here is that we recorded three points at home, and that is what matters to me.
Hoalid Regragui (Head Coach, FUS Rabat)
I am disappointed with the result. Also, I congratulate Rivers united for their victory especially the goalkeeper Sunday Rotimi for making all the saves otherwise we would have scored a goal.
The climate also affected us; yesterday it was cold and today hot which is not good for us. The game was open for both teams. We are going to concentrate on our home match and make sure to pick every all necessary points.
23.05.2017 Kampala KCCA (Uganda) 2-1 Club Africain (Tunisia)
24.05.2017 Port Harcourt Rivers United (Nigeria) 1-0 FUS Rabat (Morocco)
23.05.2017 Algiers MC Alger (Algeria) 2-1 CS Sfaxien (Tunisia)
23.05.2017 Lobamba Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland) 4-2 Platinum Stars (South Africa)
24.05.2017 El Obeid Hilal Obeid (Sudan) 1-0 Zesco United (Sudan)
24.05.2017 Alexandria Smouha (Egypt) 2-0 Recreativo do Libolo (Angola)
23.05.2017 Libreville CF Mounana (Gabon) 3-5 Supersport (South Africa)
24.05.2017 Conakry Horoya (Guinea) 1-1 TP Mazembe (DR Congo)
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football