Rivers United defeated Tanzanian side Young Africans SC 1-0 at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium to claim a hard-earned away advantage from the first leg of their CAF Champions League preliminary round.
Rivers United were at the centre of a controversy mere hours to the match when Tanzanian authorities ruled that three Rivers United players and two officials who travelled for the match tested positive for COVID-19, thus ruling them out of the match. The club, however, was adamant that the players had all been made to undergo compulsory COVID tests before they left the country, and that they all returned negative tests.
The Pride of Rivers fielded a number of debutants from the start, including ex-Kano Pillars midfielder Auwalu Ali Malam and ex-Adamawa United goalkeeper Sochima Victor, as well as striker Moses Omudumuke. Rivers United lost their top scorer in the CAF Champions League/Confederation Cup from last season, Godwin Aguda, after the midfielder completed a move to Falkenbergs FF in Sweden.
Rivers United started their Champions League match against their Tanzanian opponents, who finished second in their league last season, with the sole aim of picking up a good result on the road. Young Africans started the match well and were able to create a number of good openings, but the defence of Rivers United stood firm and refused to concede any good chances to their opponents. They were lucky not to go behind after only 25 minutes when goalkeeper Sochima spilled a cross, and the resultant header was sent wastefully wide by a Young Africans head with the goal gaping.
Rivers United finished the first half strongly, with Nelson Esor and Omudumuke combining well, but the latter was unable to convert from inside the box.
Rivers United flew out of the blocks in the second half and immediately took the lead with a beautifully worked goal in the 51st minute of the encounter. Right-back Kazie Enyinnaya put in a brilliant cross to the back post, which was headed back across goal for Omudumuke to convert a diving header from close range for his debut goal and the club’s first in the CAF Champions League this season.
Young Africans took their game up a notch, but the Rivers United backline defended stoutly and prevented the home side from finding the net. Goalkeeper Sochima Victor put on a fine performance in the second half to preserve Rivers United’s lead and give them an advantage from the first leg.
Rivers United will welcome their Tanzanian opposition to the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium on September 19th for the return leg. This result combined with their home record and the presence of their fans in the second leg, Rivers United are expected to go through to the second preliminary round of the competition.