The Pride of Rivers had no answers to the rampaging Abia Comets at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt where they were stopped by 2-0 on Sunday evening.
Rivers United started the game strongly but were unable to stamp their authority until the visitors, Abia Comets woke up in the second half to get their goals.
Two second-half substitutes, Benjamin Iluyomade and Eke Jacob scored a goal each in the 55th and 60th minutes to ensure that the former elite division champions bite the dust in front of their fans.
Abia Comets Secretary, Hyacinth Ezindu revealed that the Umuahia side players gave a good account of themselves after recovery from the opening 30 minutes they were dominated by their hosts.
He said it was stage fright that was responsible for their slow start as most of their players have not yet tasted top-flight action before but that as soon as they settled down into the game they were irrepressible.
“We didn’t start the game very because our players were jittery because of the status of Rivers United as a premier league team but they recovered later and were a delight to watch,’ Ezindu told Goal.
“The second half changes made by the technical crew was the key moment of the game as both players came in and scored a goal each. Even Eke Jacob that scored our second goal was only recruited recently from Nnewi United during the mid-season transfer.
It was a game we deserve to be proud of because our players really stepped up their game. We are able to play like this for the rest of the season; I don’t think there is anything stopping us from not playing in the premier league next season.”
In a related development, Abia Warriors needed the heroics of substitute goalkeeper, Joshua Enaholo to avoid a home loss to SKE of Port Harcourt in another friendly match.
Anthony Obia shocked the Umuahia fans with the curtain raiser for SKE in the early minutes of the encounter but a clever chip from Jimoh Oni restored parity for Abia Warriors midway in the first half.
Ndifreke Effiong ensured that Abia Warriors proceeded into the break at the driver’s seat when he nodded home his side second goal through the gaping hands of SKE goalkeeper.
The lower league side didn’t surrender despite playing away from home and their persistence was rewarded with the leveler through Solomon Thompson.
Despite playing with a man down after the expulsion of the Port Harcourt’s side ivorien midfielder, Guy Nyahoro for unsporting conduct in the 80th minute, the visitors had the chance to wrap up the game from the penalty spot in the dying moments of the game.
The centre referee had spotted an infringement in the vital area of Abia Warriors after Abiodun Adebayo was adjudged to have fouled Thompson who netted for SKE to make it 2-2 but the visitors' skipper, Ebere Akaka inexplicably had his spot-kick saved by the hosts' goalkeeper, Enaholo who was a second-half replacement for Uche Okafor.