Rivers United vs Rayon Sports
Venue: Yakubu Gowon Stadium
Kick off: 4PM
Nigerian vice champions, Rivers United, are on a renaissance of sorts.
Touted for big things after a sparkling victory over Malian club, AS Real Bamako, in the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League, the ‘Pride of Rivers’ made Nigerians believe they could dare to dream.
Comparisons were even drawn with the legendary Enyimba International FC sides of 2003 and 2004 after United tore the form books to shreds by outclassing Sudanese giants, Al Merreikh, 3-0 in the first leg of their first round CAF Champions League clash in Port Harcourt.
Then came implosion as the wheels came off spectacularly for the Nigerian flagbearers in Africa’s elite club competition.
In a cauldron of hate and noise (the Al Merreikh Stadium in Omdurman), United’s stars failed to deal with the pressure of playing in front of over 70,000 vociferous Al Merreikh fans as they suffered a 0-4 reverse.
The dream was over.
Heads dropped as many were left to ponder what might have been.
Confidence levels were at their lowest ebb and Rivers United was in free fall with the nadir exemplified by three consecutive defeats in domestic competition (against MFM, Enyimba and Gombe United), the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Then came the revival as the Port Harcourt club sought to rise from the ashes, like the proverbial Phoenix, in all its glory with hard-fought but extremely crucial league wins against ABS FC and Abia Warriors.
Technical manager of United, Azunda Stanley Eguma, smiled like the cat that ate the canary as he took the time to review the wins, which seemingly set things up quite nicely ahead of Sunday’s big game against Rayon Sports.
Eguma said: “We have suffered so much in the past months but as an extremely experienced coach, I know that football is like life; it is full of ups and downs.
“It is important to finally get back to winning ways as it helps build confidence.
“Now, we will (ride on that momentum) and try to get a good result against Rayon Sports who are a very good side.”
The two sides with slightly contrasting football philosophies will clash at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt with the objective of reaching the group stage of Africa’s second-tier club competition.