Goals in the 52nd minute from Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) last season’s highest goal scorer, Junior Lokosa, and two penalty spot kicks in the 58th, 72nd by the team’s captain, Rabiu Aliu, ensured that the former NPFL’s champion defeated hard-fighting Rivers’ side 3-2.
The Port Harcourt giant, which took the lead through Bernard Ovoke in the 10th minute, in the first game of the Group C games, saw Lokosa missing a couple of chances before the end of the first, which Rivers had control over.
Kano Pillars, however, came out in smoking in the second stanza and their effort paid off after Lokosa managed to squeeze in a goal during a goal-mouth-scrabble to equalise for his team.
Pillar soon went ahead after a penalty was awarded to them, as Ali had no problem in making it two for the Kano based team. Ali soon had another opportunity to score from the spot to make it three for his team.
Rivers United then fought back to score through Osita Chike in the die minute of the game to reduce the tally. Things however became difficult for Pillars as one of its players was shown a red card towards the end of the encounter. All efforts by Rivers United to equalize the game were frustrated by the Pillars players’ antics as they went down easily at every challenge from their opponent until the blow of the final whistle.
In the second match of the day, Kwara United showed no mercy to Abia Warriors as they hammered them 5-1. Goals from Musa Wakili, Segun Alebiosu, a hat-trick and Hashimu Shamsudeen made sure that the Warriors were completely outplayed by the Ilorin team to the delights of the spectators.
Speaking with The Guardian after yesterday’s first game, Pillars’ defender, Ikenna Ihilari said his team’s victory against Rivers was as a result of determination by Pillars players to win their first game if they are to move on to the next stage of the competition.
“The victory over Rivers was a hard one, because we had to fight back to equalise before we could take the lead. The game was very difficult for us as a result of the condition we went through before our arrival in Lagos.
“We were determined to get the first three points because the first game was to us the most important one. Before we arrived at the Agege Stadium, we all agreed that we want to make ourselves and the management proud, especially the governor who has supported us financially for this tournament,” he said.