Rivers United extended her remarkable run in the 2021 AITEO Cup by qualifying to the semi final after a goal from Fortune Omoniwari.
The 4th round tie played at the FIFA Goal Project Pitch in Abuja got off to an open start as Ivorian international Konan Ruffin met Kazie Enyinnaya’s cross with his left foot but his shot was saved by Lucky Jimoh within three minutes, before Rivers United escaped being punished from a counter attack as Tornadoes forward Kabir Umar failed to convert with just Darlington Ovunda to beat.
Rivers United patiently worked their way through the contest and thought they had the game’s opener in the 26th minute when Malachi Ohawume curled the ball into the low corner after a slick move from Konan Ruffin – only for it to be ruled out as offside.
Rivers United’s pinpoint passes in behind the Niger Tornadoes defence from Morice Chukwu and Joseph Onoja were causing all manner of problems as they continued to press forward and had much the better of the rest of the first half, coming close to taking the lead when Shedrack Oghali curled a free wide from the edge of the area.
Rivers United came flying out of the blocks after the restart as the dangerous Paul Acquah raced clear but was fouled just outside the box, but the resultant kick went wide of the far post.
Niger Tornadoes grew into the half, and had a chance when former Dolphins FC player Lukman Mohammed and Colins Atule combined, before Peter Momoh was checkmated by the defence marshals Festus Austin and Fabian Nworie.
The game was finely-poised – and nowhere near as open as the first half – and as the clock ticked on, the tension only increased.
Fortune Omoniwari had the ball in the net with 10 minutes left to play after combining well with Sunday Adetunji but his effort was ruled out for offside as Rivers United continued the search for the match opener.
With 2 out of the 4 minutes added time played, Rivers United burst forward through Joseph Onoja and Konan Ruffin, with the latter finding Fortune Omoniwari in the box. There was still much to do, but the striker who was under pressure from his marker and the on rushing goalkeeper Lucky Jimoh superbly chipped the ball into the net.
There was no further drama and importantly there were no further goals – and a priceless semi final ticket was for the “Pride of Rivers”.
Rivers United Technical Adviser, Stanley Eguma, who spoke with the media after the game gave his impression about the game, as well as impact of Ivorian International Konan Ruffin.
This victory earned a semi final berth against Bayelsa United on a yet to be announced date and venue.
Rivers United now head into NPFL action against FC IfeanyiUbah on Sunday 25th July, 2021 at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium before traveling to Lagos to face MFM FC on Wednesday 28th July, 2021.