After his return from indefinite suspension for alleged anti-club activity, Bernard Ovoke provided the winner for Rivers United as they overpowered Niger Tornadoes 1-0 in a Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) game decided on Sunday at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
Ovoke cut in from the right and curled home an unstoppable effort past the despairing Niger Tornadoes goal keeper, Mustapha Aliko in the 22nd minute.
It turned out to be the only goal of the contest as United remained in third spot on the NPFL table, two points adrift of the leaders, Wikki Tourists.
Ovoke and Guy Kuemian missed excellent chances to extend the lead of United in the first half but it was the visitors that had the best chance of an exciting opening period.
Clumsy defending by Olalekan Gabriel gifted the Minna club a penalty in the 33rd minute but Gabriel Wassa dragged his effort wide from 12 yards off Sunday Rotimi’s left hand post.
Clear cut opportunities were few and far between in the second half.
Ovoke wasted the best chance of the half as he shot straight at Aliko in the 54th minute.
Wassa hit the side-netting late on as the visitors tried to claim an equalizer.
The Rivers United technical manager, Stanley Eguma lauded his charges for the win but rued the missed chances that came their way.
“We did not underestimate Tornadoes because we know they are a very strong team.
“They gave us a tough battle as we expected but in the end, we were able to win and that was the most important thing.
“They played well but if we had converted the chances we got today, the margin of victory would have been wider,” Eguma told Rivers United Media.
Tornadoes head coach, Bala Abubakar also fielded questions after the contest and refused to blame Wassa for the penalty miss in the first half.
“It was a difficult one and a very sad one because it could have given us the equalizer.
“Unfortunately, that is football and anyone can miss a penalty.
“We are not happy about the loss but there is nothing we can do about it because it is part of the game,” he said.
Rivers United have now amassed 41 points from 24 matches while Tornadoes, with 32 points from 24 matches occupy 13th place on the standings.