Oche Salefu scored a brilliant goal to rescue a point for Rivers United in a 1-1 draw with FC Ifeanyiubah FC in a feisty Nigeria Professional Football League clash that produced two red cards.
FC Ifeanyiubah shot into the lead at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt in the 65th minute when Onyekachi Chidume converted a penalty, sending substitute goalkeeper, Robert Cole, the wrong way.
United however hit back with four minutes remaining via Salefu’s sumptuous finish following good work by Osita Chikere, as the hosts settled for a share of the spoils.
In a first half of few clear cut opportunities, the hosts were marginally better and could have taken the lead in the ninth minute when Emeka Ogbugh’s crafty attempt from a tight angle hit the side netting.
Seven minutes after the restart, United almost put their noses in front following a delightful interchange of passes between Osita and Salefu, with the latter just failing to beat FC Ifeanyiubah goalkeeper, Bamba Drissa, from close range.
The game’s turning point arrived in the 64th minute when the Rivers United goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi, received a straight red card for a lunge on the lively FC Ifeanyiubah goalkeeper, Paschal Seka.
It was a moment to forget for the usually calm and collected veteran as Seka was always second best to get to the ball in the United penalty area.
Rotimi was sent off and Bernard Ovoke was duly sacrificed for reserve goalkeeper, Cole.
Cole’s first task was to pick the ball out of his net as Chidume calmly sent him the wrong way from 12 yards.
United were staring the barrel, down to 10 men and trailing at home for the second time in the league this season.
The lads from Port Harcourt are however made of stern stuff and refused to go down with a whimper.
Purposeful, consistent attacking play culminated in Salefu’s delightful equalizer with the clock running down after the visitors had been reduced to 10 men following Sadiq Abdulrazak’s dismissal for a second bookable offence in the 80th minute.
United almost claimed a stoppage time winner but Bamba produced an extraordinary stop to deny Osita at the death.
Technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma, expressed disappointment with the result but praised his charges for fighting back to claim a point at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
“It was a game we prepared to win knowing that our opponents are also a very strong side but we unfortunately could not get the three points at stake,” Eguma said.
“We fought very hard; the players put up a good effort and created a lot of good goal scoring opportunities but we couldn’t convert them.
“In the second half, the penalty we conceded due to our goalkeeper’s error put us in a difficult situation in the game.
“It affected our game plan but I will also commend the effort of the boys for fighting back to equalize and getting a point.”
The draw sees United move up one place on the NPFL standings as they now occupy fifth place with 17 points from 11 matches while FC Ifeanyiubah sit in 11th spot with 14 points from 11 matches.