Bayelsa Queens handed Rivers Angels a penalty shootout heartbreak in the 2021 Betsy Obaseki Cup final 4-3 defeat on penalties to after a goalless draw in full time.
TotalEnergies CAF Women's Champions League bound Rivers are gearing up for the maiden Women's Champions League, where they will battle Kenya's Vihiga Queens, South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns and Morocco's ASFAR in Group B in Egypt from November 5-19, 2021.
Smarting from the 2021 WAFU-B final defeat in Abidjan, where they lost 3-1 to Ghana's Hasaacas Ladies in August, the Nigerian league champions were hoping for an ultimate redemption at the 12-team pre-season tournament but floundered yet again at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.
On Sunday, Rivers went up against their biggest domestic rivals Bayelsa Queens for a fourth time in 2021 in a bid for a third win, having won twice (1-0 and 4-0) and lost once (5-0) in their previous meetings.
Bayelsa made a fine start as Mary Anjor and Amada Mbadi forced Ghanaian goalkeeper Charlotte Adjei to fine saves, while Rivers duo of Maryann Ezenagu and Chiamaka Okwuchukwu threatened but no goal in the regulation time.
Straight to penalties, Ifeoma Ikenokwalu and Evelyn Nwabouku missed from the spot to see the Women's Champions League hopeful missed another title celebration and no one was as disappointed as Ezenagu, despite being consoled with the Best Player of the Tournament award.
"I'm down psychologically losing two finals (WAFU-B) in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire and now (Betsy Obaseki Cup) in Benin, Nigeria. I don't feel happy although I also think we gave our best and put in a lot of work, "Ezenagu told CAFOnline.com.
"I'm very grateful to the organizers for giving us (Rivers Angels) this great opportunity to compete. It has helped us a lot and I believe we will do better when we get to Egypt. I can assure everyone that we will do the country and Rivers Angels fans proud. "
Reviewing the tournament and teams' performances, NFF first vice president Seyi Akinwunmi lauded the organizers over the successful event, while stressing that quality preparatory games were offered to Rivers Angels.
"I'm extremely impressed with the quality of competition by the teams and standard of organization by the organizers. We hope to see more of these for the development of women's football," Akinwunmi, who also oversaw the Aisha Buhari Cup recently won by South Africa, told Cafonline.com.
"The final was a tough match and I don't think they (Rivers Angels) would get a tougher opponent on the continent (in Egypt). It is a good preparation tournament for them. I'm sure they will value and learn from it in order to do the country proud in Egypt. "
Rivers Angels were pipped by Bayelsa Queens to the coveted crown and Local Organizing Committee chairperson Sabina Chikere is happy the championship gave some quality preparation for the country's representative on the continent.
"I'm super excited that the invitational tournament was a huge success and the opportunity given to the women's clubs. We hope to make this a yearly recent and hope to improve on the standards," Chikere told Cafonline.com.
"This is an opportunity for Rivers Angels to assess themselves, sign new players to beef up their team and also know their lapses so as to represent the country well in Egypt."
Sharing her excitement, wife of the Edo State governor Betsy Obaseki expressed joy of the success of the week long domestic showpiece and further backs Rivers Angels to make huge success on the continent come November.
"I'm very happy that we're able to revive the past glory of the state in sports through women's football and providing the platform to engage and promote the girl child and doing this in the campaign against child trafficking," Obaseki, the initiator of the women's club championship, told Cafonline.com.
"We're excited with the quality of competition and also the opportunity to support Rivers Angels in their preparation for the Champion League. We are confident that their participation in this invitational will help them excel in Egypt."