By Hananeel Jackson
The battle for this year’s AITEO Cup Final and a place in the CAF confederation Cup, will continue on Friday with 2009 Nigeria Professional Football NPFL , champions Bayelsa United taking on Rivers United at the Agege Stadium,Lagos.
Bayelsa United journey in this years AITEO Cup could be described as the best performance the club has had in recent times beating top premier league sides like Rangers, Lobi Stars and Nigerian Air Force enroute the semi finals.
The fourth round clash against Nigeria National League,NNL,Gateway United in Ilorin has been the most difficult game the team has played so far with a 5-4 victory over the Abeokuta side on penalties after a one all draw in regulation time.
Speaking on the significance of the game in a pre match interview, technical Adviser of Bayelsa United, Diepreye Teibowei said the Team was not threatened by Rivers United despite playing in the Nigeria National League, pointing that he was only concerned about fatigue.
He noted that the victories against, Rangers and Lobi Stars in the tournament was indicative that the team was prepared to face any team in the country,saying that the return of some key players in the squad has also strengthened the side.
Reflecting on Bayelsa United’s current form, technical Adviser of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma described Bayelsa United as a ‘good side’, saying they would not underrate the Nigeria National League NNL outfit after their impressive run in the competition.
On paper, Rivers United may be expected to overcome neighbours Bayelsa United when both teams clash in Friday’s semi-final in Lagos, but the experienced tactician said he was not taking anything for granted, especially after the exploits of the Yenagoa-based side in the competition this year.
Also, defender Endurance Ebedibiri asserted that they are not new to Rivers United despite their 5-4 defeat last year in the Governor Wike Invitational tournament in Port Harcourt.
However, the fixture in the last fifteen years has produced twenty five goals. On March 27th, 2007, Bayelsa United beat Rivers United by 2-1 goals, same on January 13th Bayelsa United held Rivers United to 1-1 at the Elekahia Stadium now Yakubu Gowon stadium, Rivers United on June 24th, 2006 beat Bayelsa United 4-2 in an NPFL fixture.
The battle for supremacy continued on March 15th, 2006 at the Elekahia Studium as both sides played out 1-1 with Bayelsa United, on November 12th 2009 both sides also shared the spoils in an NPFL fixture, Bayelsa United and Rivers United
The South South derby on April 30th, 2010, saw Bayelsa United lost to Rivers United by three goals to one while on May 5th 2015,Bayelsa United and Rivers United settled for a 2-2 draw, the most recent fixture was at the Governor Wike Invitational tournament where both sides played out a 1-1 90 minutes of hostility.
To reach the semi-finals of this year’s AITEO Cup, the Pride of Rivers knocked out Sokoto United 2-1, overcame Heartland 3-1, before securing a 1-0 win against Niger Tornadoes in the quarter-finals.
The other semi-final match will be contested by Nasarawa United and Sunshine Stars in Asaba on Friday, with kick-off for both games billed for 3pm