A superb brace by Rivers United winger, Bernard Ovoke proved the catalyst for a thrilling 4-3 win over Amateur side, Papilo FC in a round of 64 Federation Cup game decided at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo on Wednesday.
United were without inspirational stars, Kola Anubi, Ofem Inah, Obomate Frederick and captain, Festus Atutin but still produced their most potent display of the season to tame a spirited Papilo side.
Papilo FC however began the much brighter of the two sides at the ‘Nest of Champions’ and should have taken a shock early lead.
Chinonso Nwaiwu and Ikpe Michael came close inside the opening five minutes but a superb Sunday Rotimi in the Rivers United goal however saved the day for the Nigeria Professional Footbll League (NPFL) leaders.
The missed chances was to prove costly for Papilo FC as United took the lead in the 20th minute after an unmarked Chinonso Okonkwo headed home from close range following an excellent delivery from Chiwendu Ali.
The unheralded Papilo FC were back on level terms five minutes later through electrifying forward, Ikpe who headed home Nwaiwu’s cross from the left.
It was the least their positive play deserved but United cranked up the pressure and scored their second goal of the afternoon in the 28th minute.
Ovoke whipped in a telling free kick from the near side which flew into the top right hand corner past a floundering Papilo FC goal keeper, Tochi Njemanze.
United had a chance to score a third on the hour after Emeka Ajah handled in the box with the referee promptly awarding a penalty.
Bernard Ovoke stepped up and sent Njemanze the wrong way to put United 3-1 up.
Papilo FC however refused to roll over and consistent display of endeavour saw them net a second through Ikpe in the 79th minute to set up a grand stand finish.
Ali put the game to bed with a spectacular curling effort-the goal of the game-in the first minute of second half added time.
Papilo FC was not done yet and scored their third goal of the day almost immediately through second half substitute, Iroegbu Kelechi to end a game which clearly lived up to the hype.
The Papilo FC coach, Obinna Uzorwho was full of praise for his charges for what he described as ‘a very good performance’.
“My boys put in a very good performance. There is nothing to be ashamed about losing to a good team like Rivers United.
“Now we will concentrate on our league matches now after we gained promotion.
“My boys are very good and can play anywhere.”
The Rivers United technical manager, Stanley Eguma was relieved after the win.
“It was a good game. The most important thing was that we had to win.
“In the Federation Cup, anything can happen and I am happy we were able to win,” he said.