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Naive Rivers United kiss CAF Confederation Cup goodbye

Ofoke Benard of Rivers United vs. Club Africain Kabiru Abubakar/BackpagePix

Rivers United, Nigeria's last representatives in continental competition, were eliminated from the CAF Confederation Cup on Friday following a 2-1 away loss against FUS Rabat to finish bottom of Group A.

Captain Festus Austine was the villain for a second successive fixture as he gave away a needless 86th-minute penalty which was expertly converted by Mohammed Fouzaire to hand FUS Rabat the winner.

Coach Stanley Eguma made four changes to the Rivers United side that lost at home to Club Africain on Sunday as he attempted to sneak past second-placed FUS Rabat in their own backyard.

Goalkeeper Abiodun Akande proved to be the most effective of the quartet and the game's outstanding individual as he showcased his acrobatic abilities between the sticks, twice using his head to make vital saves.

After a one-sided opening half which saw the away side fail to test the home team's suspect goalkeeper, despite their obvious physical superiority, Rivers United took the lead against the run of play.

Ifeanyi Nweke's cross was fumbled into the goal by Aymane Majid for FUS Rabat, allowing Bolaji Sakin to expertly finish in the 43rd minute to give Rivers United the lead at half time.

FUS Rabat sustained the pressure in the second half and duly equalised through Youssef El Gnaoui, who produced a simple tap-in to beat Akande after his defence was torn apart.

Rivers United appeared to have the upper hand with the clock ticking down, but Eguma, whose team needed a goal, opted to replace the hardworking Sakin for left-back Gabriel Wassa in a rather bizarre move.

That tactical blunder came back to haunt the Nigerian club five minutes later when Austine, under no visible pressure, handled in the box. The referee awarded a penalty to kill off Rivers, much to the dismay of the crestfallen captain.