Rivers United have expressed confidence they will go far in this year’s CAF Champions League after they dumped Sudanese giants Al Merreikh 3-0 at home in a first round, first leg clash.
Ivorian striker Guy Kuemian was the star of the show for Rivers United on Sunday as they overpowered Al Merreikh.
The Ivoirian netted twice in as many minutes inside the opening 20 minutes to signal the intent of the home side who were cheered on by a healthy crowd at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt.
The home completed the scoring in the 81st minute with a straight forward effort from close range, finished emphatically by the club’s top scorer in the tournament Esosa Igbinoba.
According to Esosa: “It was a very sweet victory for my team. We took our chances in the match and we are set already for the return leg in Sudan.
“We are going to Sudan to play as if we are yet to play the first leg as we desire to go far in this tournament as a team and with the good support of the state government we will get there by God’s grace.
“Our preparation for this tournament has justified our good run. But we need to do more to get to the final of the Champions League.”
Igbinoba has now scored three goals in the Champions League.
Rivers United coach Stanley Eguma praised his team’s effort.
“We exerted a lot of energy in the first half trying to get those goals and we were able to get two,” he remarked
“In the second half, my players did not pick up on time and in football, both sides usually have their moments when they play well.
“Al Merriekh played well but we then made some substitutions which (evened things out again) and we got the third goal.
“I don’t think it was a bad game for us,” he added.
His opposite number Diego Garzitto blamed local conditions for the defeat.
“We were not used to the conditions in Port Harcourt,” he said at the post match press conference.
“Al Merriekh usually plays its matches from 8pm and today (on Sunday) we kicked off four hours earlier.
“Our pitch in Omdurman is grass, but we had to play on an artificial surface in Port Harcourt.”
The two sides will meet again at the intimidating 43,000 capacity Al Merriekh Stadium in Omdurman on March 18 to decide the tie.
Match statistics: Rivers United (Nigeria) versus Al-Merriekh (Sudan)
Rivers United: Sunday Rotimi, Markson Ojobo, Zoumana Doumbia, Atuloma Emeka, Ayobami Asekunowo, Festus Austine, Nzube Anaezemba, Lukman Mohammed, Kuemian Guy, Esosa Igbinoba, Emeka Ogbugh.
Substitutes not used: Femi Thomas, Ifeanyi Nweke, Douhadji Joseph, Ovoke Bernard, Asamoah Godbless, Okereke Maduabuchi, Weli Christian.
Al-Merriekh: Jamal Salim, Ramadan Ajab, Salah Nimr, Kunle Odunlami, Ali Gafar, Al Aldin Yousif, Amir Kamal, Ali Talat, Alsamany Alsawy, Bakry Almadina, Kelechi Osunwa.
Goals: Kuemian (16’ and 18’), Igbinoba (81’)
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