Enyimba Football Club have moved within one point of the top of the Nigeria Professional Football League after sealing a 1-0 win over Rivers United in a drab fixture at the Enyimba Stadium on Thursday.
Victor Mbaoma fired in the only goal with a 24th minute freekick to lift the eight times champions above their neighbours.
Center back Austin Opara was handed his Enyimba debut and youngster Orok Gabriel made his first league start as Usman Abd’Allah made seven changes to the team that started against San Pedro in the CAF Confederation Cup four days earlier.
Despite playing together for the first time, Orok and Mbaoma formed a sleek partnership to light up the opening stages, with the latter benefiting from the former’s tailored pass for the game’s first chance, pulling a save from Ospino Egbe.
Mbaoma came close again with a smart effort on the turn, but watched it go slightly over the top.
The goal eventually arrived midway through the half when Mbaoma’s well hit freekick from the edge of the box was pushed into the top corner by Egbe.
Mbaoma continued to impress his character on the fixture, trying a similar effort from thirty-five yards, but Egbe stood strong to parry out.
The visitors, largely buoyed by the introductions of Nelson Essor and Fortune Omoniwari, gave a better fight in the second half, but hardly threatened with goalmouth moments.
The half’s biggest highlight, meanwhile, came on the hour when Mbaoma’s freekick left Stanley Dimgba unchallenged, but the winger fired wide from close range.
Anayo Iwuala came on for the Dimgba while Samson Obi replaced the impressive Orok as Enyimba held strong for their fourth win in the league.
Now one point behind leaders Plateau United, Enyimba will hope for the return of some of their regulars for Sunday’s trip to Dakkada FC.