Malachi Ohawume scored two well-taken goals in five second half minutes to power Rivers United to a stunning 2-0 victory over hosts, Heartland FC in Okigwe in a high profile Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) game decided on Sunday.
Malachi smacked home from close range after an extraordinary assist from second half substitute, Fortune Omoniwari in the 75th minute and completed his brace with just over nine minutes remaining with a fearsome finish, plundered with frightening with goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa barely moving a muscle.
The win keeps United in second place on the NPFL standings, just one point adrift of the leaders, Plateau United who defeated Jigawa Golden Stars 2-1 in Jos.
Heartland were the better side in the first half but a combination of profligacy and ill luck cost them the chance to go into the break with their noses in front by at least, two clear goals.
Abiodun Thompson and Aputaziem Ugochuwu came extremely close to opening the scoring in a matter of seconds as the game hit the quarter hour mark but both men failed to display clinical instincts in front of goal.
Five minutes later, Samuel Nnoshiri struck a freekick against the crossbar from the edge of the bar despite the best efforts of the Rivers United goalkeeper, Drissa Bamba to keep the ball from hitting the back of the net.
The loose ball fell towards the path of Ezeali Kingsley whose effort from two yards also clattered against the crossbar.
It was a close shave which the visitors would profit from late on.
Heartland however continued to step on the accelerator and nearly scored in the 24th minute with Adetola Ayooluwa getting into a goalscoring position but seeing his final touch – a fierce strike fly hopelessly wide.
On the half hour, the visitors rode their luck again when the unmarked Pascal Eze headed millimetres wide from eight yards following majestic work by Nnoshiri who completely took the United defence to the cleaners.
Two minutes later, the hosts came close again, this time, through Jide Williams who saw his well-struck effort from 20 yards easily smothered by Bamba.
Aputaziem Ugochukwu was presented with the hosts’ best chance of the half in the 36th minute, a side-footed effort from three yards which was struck wide after Julius Emiloju delivered on a plate for the unmarked forward.
The shocking pattern of misses continued for the home side as Ezeali Kingsley fired wide from eight yards with just Bamba at his mercy.
The hosts continued the first half as they ended the first and came close to breaking the deadlock in the 52nd minute.
Ayooluwa finally getting the beating of Bamba and wheeling away in celebration only for United’s left back, Konan Ruffin to produce an audacious goal line clearance that left him with a broken lip as his face clattered against the right hand post.
There is a maxim in football, “when you don’t take your chances, you will pay dearly for it”.
That phrase was ruthlessly exemplified in the 75th minute as Malachi netted clinically from close range following a quickly-taken corner.
United scored with their next attack of the game through Malachi who blasted past the shell-shocked Ezenwa as the Naze Millionaires were left to rue missed opportunities and ponder what might have been.
“It was a good performance by my boys. We prepared well as we knew this was going to be a tough game as we are rival opponents,” technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma
The win means United stay in second place on the NPFL standings with 39 points from 22 matches.
Next up for the Port Harcourt darlings is a home fixture against Nnewi club, FC Ifeanyiubah at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium on Sunday, March 8, 2020
Ikechukwu Ezenwe, Chidera Eze, Julius Emiloju ( Chidiebere Ajoku 83′), Jide Williams, Pascal Eze, Adetola Ayooluwa, Ezeali Kingsley (Sadiq Abubakar 73′), Samuel Nnoshiri, Aputaziem Ugochukwu, Abiodun Thompson and Obioma Chukwuemeka (Olayemi Jacob 57′).
Substitutes not used
Chijioke Ejiogu, Danvide Ogunloye, Nnamani Emmanuel and Eric Dufegha.
Drissa Bamba, Goodwill Kazie, N’Gouan Konan, Peter Ubakanma, Temple Emekayi, Festus Austin, Cletus Emotan, Malachi Ohawume, Ogbonna Onuoha (Fortune Omoniwari 59′), Shuji Oshobe and Esor Nelson( Kunle Odunlami 88′).
Substitutes not used
Akande Abiodun, Patrick Kingsley, Bamba Bakary, Rafiu Ishaq and Stephen Gopey.
Heartland FC: nil
Rivers United FC: Malachi Ohawume 75′, 80′
Heartland FC: Ikechukwu Ezenwa 31′,
Rivers United FC: Godswill Kazie 21′, Austine Festus 35′, Konan N’Gouan 73′
Red Cards: nil