A tactical masterclass by Rivers United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma proved to be catalyst for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) club on Saturday as they held Malian side, AS Real Bamako to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their preliminary round Caf Champions League game.
United enjoyed the better chances and should have won comfortably had their forwards avoided profligacy in key moments of the contest decided at the Stade Modibo Keita de Bamako.
Lukman Mohammed missed the best chance of the first period when he headed over from close range after he was expertly set up by Nzube Anaezembe whose inch-perfect cross needed the slightest of touches to make the net bulge on the stroke of half time.
The hosts also came close in the first half through right back, El Hadji Salim Bah who overlapped admirably only to see his fierce drive fly inches wide off Femi Thomas’ left hand post inside the first quarter hour.
The second half was a more technical affair as defences dominated for most parts.
Real’s best attacking moment arrived in the 72nd minute when Abdramane Traore’s effort hit the side netting with Thomas well positioned the make a block.
The visitors enjoyed the clearer openings with Kuemian and Ovoke coming extremely close to breaking the deadlock late on.
As Real Bamako coach, Pascal Pons blamed his side’s failure to win on their lack of knowledge of the Nigerian side but promised a better performance in the return fixture in Port Harcourt.
“It (the result) was okay even though we played a 0-0 draw. We could not really understand the tactics and system of our opponents today.
“We showed good skill but it was difficult to tell exactly how our opponents would play since we didn’t know much about them (Rivers United).
“We have a week to prepare and in the next one week, we will be well prepared as now understand them (United) better,” Pons told www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
On his part, Eguma of Rivers United said it was not yet time to celebrate as there was still one more hurdle to scale.
The two sides will meet again in the evenly-poised tie in Port Harcourt, next weekend.
As Real Bamako: Boubacar Sogoba, El Hadji Salim Bah, Abdramane Traore, Alassane Traore, Makan Samabaly, Mohammed Sangare (Idrissa Traore 66’), Ballo Moussa, Doumbia Aboubacar, Ballo Adama, Camara Mohammed (Folarin Temitope 79’) and Aboubacar Camara.
Substitutes not used: Drissa Kouyate, Dramane Traore, Amadou Keita, Bakoffi Ouattara and Zebro Mamadou.
Rivers United: Femi Thomas, Anaezemba Nzube (Ovoke Bernard 84’) Esosa Igbinoba, Guy Venance Kuemian, Gabriel Olalekan, Zoumana Doumbia, Lukman Mohammed (Godbless Asamoah 56’), Festus Austine, Aliassou Sanou (Ayobami Asekunowo 77’), Weli Christian and Markson Ojobo.
Substitutes not used: Ifeanyi Nweke, Bolaji Sakin, Sunday Rotimi and Emeka Ogbugh.
AS Real Bamako: Nil
Rivers United: Zoumana Doumbia (61’) and Aliasou Sanou (76’)
Red cards: Nil