Christian Weli’s strike on the half hour was all Rivers United required to win 1-0 against high-flying MFM FC in a tense Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) game in Port Harcourt wednesday.
The midfielder turned home a loose ball from close range after the MFM defence failed to clear their lines following a throw in from the near side.
Rivers United should have taken the lead early in the game but Bernard Ovoke’s tamely-struck penalty was easily stopped by the MFM FC goalkeeper, Folarin Abayomi in the fifth minute.
The home side refused to allow the setback deter them as they continually stepped on the accelerator and got due reward with Weli showing the instincts of a poacher from point blank range.
Stung into action, MFM almost got back on level terms straight from the restart but Stanley Okorom shot wide with just the Rivers United goalkeeper, Femi Thomas at his mercy following an exhilarating team move.
Thomas was required to make a brilliant save five minutes before half time as Stephen Odey made a powerful run before shooting low and hard with the United defence in sixes and sevens.
The MFM Head Coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu, had surprised many by starting with a three-man backline and his team talk at the break seemed to have been hinged on getting his charges fired up to get an early equalizer in the second half.
They almost obliged as Adegboyega Adekunle, Odey, Okorom and Sikiru Olatubosun all came close in the opening 11 minutes of the second half.
United withstood the pressure and almost double their lead in the 72nd minute when Weli miscued his effort from the edge of the MFM penalty area after good work by substitute, Bolaji Sakin.
In the end, there was to be no more goals as the hosts closed out the win which sees them climb out of the relegation zone.
MFM remain in second place on the NPFL standings with 46 points from 28 matches while United now occupy 14th spot with 36 points from 26 matches.