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Wikki inflict late heartbreak on Rivers United

Wikki Tourists left it late to beat Rivers United 1-0 at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi with the winner coming just 11 minutes from time.

Christopher Waziri rose, unchallenged to head home the game’s only goal as the United defence failed to clear Festus Umanah’s free kick.

The win hurls Wikki back into the title race while United must now win their next two matches and hope the leaders, Rangers slip up in one of their remaining two games to stand any chance of winning the title.

The Rivers United technical manager, Stanley shocked many as he opted to drop the club’s two most potent attacking weapons, Bernard Ovoke and Chinonso Okonkwo to the bench.

In the absence of the suspended Ivoirian marksman, Guy Kuemian, Eguma choose to hand Daniel Israel his first start of the season while Babtunde Bright was given the nod to play as support striker.

It proved an inspired move as the caused all sorts of problems for the hosts with the former unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when he was seemingly tripped by a Wikki’s Hassan Hussein in the 25th minute.

Babatunde, whose upper body strength was used to full effect in holding up the ball and setting up teammates, almost scored a spectacular 50 yard effort but watched in despair as his dipping, swerving drive flew just inches wide after the Wikki goal keeper, Emeka Nwabulu strayed off his line.

It was however Wikki that started the stronger of the two sides and created the more clear-cut opportunities.

The league’s top scorer. Godwin Obaje whose nonchalant chip totally hoodwinked Sunday Rotimi in the United goal but missed the target by whiskers in the fourth minute.

The lively Umanah also came close to opening the scoring early in the first half but saw an unconventional Rotimi prevent his fierce drive from hitting the back of the net.

Real chances were few and far between in a first half that saw both sides cancel each other out.

Two minutes before the break, Obaje crept to the far side to meet an Umanah cross with a intelligent header but Rotimi stood firm to save well at his near post.

Rotimi and Obaje continued their individual duel in the second half with the United man coming up trumps to deny the Wikki poacher yet again in the 51st minute.

The hosts continued to step on the accelerator with the realization that failure to amass maximum points would put paid to their ambitions of a late title push.

Obaje was taking matters into his own hands and on 55 minutes, he produced an outrageous back heeled effort which was on target but did not have the pace and power to go past the outstanding Rotimi.

Wikki continued to throw the kitchen sink at and on 72 minutes, Mubarak Umar unleashed a spectacular effort at the United goal but Rotimi made the save look easy.

While the hosts pouring forward in numbers, there was always the chance of the visitors nicking a goal on the break and so it almost proved in the 77th minute.

Ofem Inah and Chinonso Okonkwo combined well in the Wikki half with the latter curling a tame effort which Nwabulu barely broke any sweat to save.

That miss by Okonkwo proved decisive as the hosts finally struck the underbelly of the visitors two minutes later through Waziri to set off furious celebrations among the home faithful.

The Wikki Tourists head coach, Abdul Maikaba praised his wards for the win during an interview.

“We planned to get an early goal but when it did not come, we remained patient knowing we could score at any time.

“I commend my players for the win and now we must focus on winning our remaining two games,” he said.

United technical manager, Eguma was disappointed with the results but insisted that heads would not be dropping within the ranks of the ‘Pride of Rivers’.

“We played very well but it was not to be in the end as they scored very late in the game.

“We cannot complain but we will continue to work hard to see that we achieve something positive at the end of the season,” he said.

United have slipped to second on the NPFL standings but have amassed 56 points from 36 matches.

Wikki are now in third place, two points behind United after playing the same number of games.

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