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Naija Super 8: Rivers United Bows Out of Contention, as Akwa United Eases Into Semifinals

July, 11 2023.

Dethroned Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) champions, Rivers United are effectively out of the Naira-spinning private sector driven pre-season tournament, christened Naija Super 8, after losing 0-1 to their South-South rivals, Akwa United of Uyo on Monday.

Having been beaten on Saturday by Lobi Stars of Makurdi, who actually came from behind to inflict the defeat on them, the Pride of Rivers can no longer qualify for the semifinals even if they win their last group match.

Their dismal run of form at the tournament, on-going in Lagos coincided with the club's decision to release as many as eleven players on Friday and ahead of the start of the 2023/2024 NPFL Season.

The released players are, Bolaji Sakin (forward) who joined from Horoya of Guinea, Ihunda Chigozie (defender),

Madu Chiamaka (midfielder),

Fabian Nworie (defender),

Darlington Ovunda (goalkeeper),

Malachi Ohawume (forward),

Akpesiri Nalbe (winger)

Francis Ifeanyi (forward),

Kenechukwu Agu (midfielder), and Chukwudi Lawrence (winger).

Even before the recent releases, Rivers United experienced the departure of two senior players whose contracts had expired.

Ndasi Denis, a 29-year-old defender, decided to continue his career with Rwanda’s APR FC after spending two successful years with Rivers United and Morice Chukwu who is being courted by Simba SC of Tanzania, and he opted not to renew his contract, now that he is a free agent.

Stanley Eguma's side started last season strongly and reached the quarterfinal round of the CAF Confederation Cup, but their inability to defend their NPFL title, won for the first time the season before, and early exit from the Federation Cup, has been viewed as poor s, on a season they spent a lot in recruiting players.

Finishing third at the NPFL Play-offs meant that they lost out on a CAF Champions league slot, and will only be contesting in the less lucrative and attractive CAF Confederation Cup, as a consequence.

In contrast, Akwa United are the first team at the Naija Super 8 to advance to the semi-finals having garnered six points from two matches, thanks to their in-form striker, Uchenna Collins who coiled the ball past Rivers United’s goalkeeper, Akande Abiodun in the 59th minute, reports.

Monday's victory was the second in as many matches for the Promise Keepers, who had a managerial change, at the end of the 2022/23 season, with Fatai Osho taking over from Ayodeji Ayeni.

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