Nigeria’s lone survivor in CAF’s inter club competition, Rivers United have returned to reckoning in the Confederation Cup after recording a 1-0 win over Moroccan club, Faith Union de Sportive (FUS) on Wednesday.
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, Aymane Majid successfully foiled John Odumegwu’s attacking run.
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 that the goal was scored from an offside position.
FUS, previously content with sitting back and containing wave after wave of Rivers United 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 a clear sight on 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.
With spaces opening up as the visitors pushed farther up the pitch, Rivers United almost put the game to bed with a stunning counter attack in the 89th minute but Odah, saw his goal-bound shot pushed away onto the post by Majid and away for a corner.
The win at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt 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 their first three matches.