CAF CL: Rivers United smash three past Al-Merrikh in Port Harcourt
Ivoirian striker, Guy Kuemian was the star of the show for Rivers United on Sunday as the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) club turned on the style to overpower Sudanese outfit, Al-Merrikh 3-0 in the Caf Champions League on Saturday.
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, Port Harcourt.
His first goal on 16 minutes was a simple but vital as it eased frayed nerves.
It borne out of impressive work by fellow attacker, Lukman Mohammed who subsequently laid it on a plate for the marksman.
The pint-sized attacker completed his brace in more aesthetic fashion in the 18th minute as his looping header left the Al-Merrikh goalkeeper, Jamal Salim with no chance.
United almost conceded just before the half hour as Zoumana Doumbia got caught for pace on the left channel.
The beneficiary of the subsequent Merrikh opening was Bakry Al Madina who struck firmly enough but watched in agony as his effort came off against the post after the United goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi got the faintest of touches to the goal-bound strike.
The hosts eventually 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.
Diego Garzitto, the Al-Merrikh head coach cut a forlorn figure shortly after the full time whistle as he struggled to come to terms with what might have been.
“We were not used to the conditions in Port Harcourt,” he said at the post match press conference.
“Al-Merrikh 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,” he said.
Technical manager of United, Stanley Eguma also fielded questions from the media after the game.
“We exerted a lot of energy in the first half trying to get those goals and we were able to get two.
“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-Merrikh 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 said.
The two sides will meet again at the intimidating 43,000 capacity Al-Merrikh Stadium, Omdurman on March 18 to decide the tie.