Sunshine Stars marked their return home from a fruitful sojourning in Ijebu Ode with a crucial 1-0 win over league leaders, Rivers United in a feisty NPFL contest at the Ondo State Sports Complex.
The thousands of fans that turned out to welcome and cheer the home team, including the number two citizen of Ondo State State, his Excellency Hon. Lucky Aiyedatiwa had not all taken their seats at the stadium when Leonard Ugochukwu got the Owena Whales off to a flyer.
The hitman headed home from the pieces of Azeez Ajagbe’s header off a free kick delivered by Ikenna Cooper inside the opening five minutes as the Owena Whales grabbed an early advantage like they did against the Pride of Rivers on the final day of the 2020/21 season – the last NPFL outing in Akure before Thursday.
At the height of Rivers United’s push for a leveller, Mustapha Lawal came through in clutch to deny the Pride of Rivers with a commanding save few minutes before the break.
Despite being a goal up at halftime, the hosts came out of the tunnel rejuvenated and almost doubled the lead two minutes after the restart, but Ugochukwu’s glancing header off a perfectly-weighted free kick from Habib Yakub was marginally off the mark.
The Emmanuel Deutcsh tutored boys kept United under coercion for a prolong spell and the visitors nearly turned into their own net when Jide jimoh aimed to set up Ugochukwu after a good run down the left channel.
Mirroring his display on the final day of last season, Ejike Uzoechi went close to scoring another header against Rivers United, but his effort off a corner kick was kept out by Sochima Victor 11 minutes from time, while Ajagbe narrowly missed the target from a throw-in five minutes later.
In the end Ugochukwu’s seventh goal of the season proved decisive as the Akure landlords on their homecoming ended Rivers United’s 12-match unbeaten run to remain sixth on the log with 36 points.
POST MATCH QUOTES
When faced with the media after game, Deutcsh expressed satisfaction with the effort of his boys and noted that anxiety robbed Sunshine Stars more goal in the contest.
“The boys showed good character, I appreciate what they did; their character was very good in the field of play. Now we forget about this game and move to the next one.
“You know it was not easy to come back and play before the fans after some time. They want to do well and impress the fans, that is why we missed many chances but we will correct it next time.”
Sunshine Stars will be the guests of Kano Pillars at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on matchday 25.
Sunshine XI | Lawal; Yakub, Anioke, Uzoechi, Dauda (Chilekwu 47′); Nwaiwu, Brandon (Olalusi 59′), Cooper; Ajagbe, Nwagbaga (Jimoh 59′), Ugochukwu
Unused Subs | Ariyo; Abe, Ozor, Erukusin, Koffi Adjoumani, Awosanmi
Cautions | Yakub 35′ Chilekwu 55′ Ugochukwu 90′