Seven-time Nigeria league champions, Rangers International F.C, Sunday afternoon inside the Bako Kontagora Memorial Stadium, Minna, fought hard to earn a scoreless draw against Niger Tornadoes and maintain its position on the group A log of the abridged NPFL 2018/2019 season.
Coach Ogunbote handed rare starting jersey to FIFA World Cup star, Michael Uchebo and ‘Super-Sub,’ Kelvin Itoya in a 4-4-2 formation to contain the much faster and nimble footed boys from Minna.
To their credit, the duo kept the defense line of the host ably marshaled by Iorliam Gwaza and Reuben Ogbonnaya at bay while Tony Shimaga and Solomon Okpako did a good job of controlling the middle of the pack for the visitors to check the rampaging runs of Sadick Abass and Chidera Christopher.
The game failed to record any goal not for lack of trying from the attackers of both sides but for some quality saves from both shot stoppers and some near misses as was the case on 10 minutes when Aliko Mustapha was quick off his line to stop Uchebo from causing any havoc after a defensive mix-up presented the lanky striker with the opportunity.
Aliyu Mohammed was guilty of a great miss with only four minutes left on the clock as he was allowed much space by Rangers defenders but his shot sailed over the bar with an empty net at his mercy while captain of the host team, Aliko Mustapha did a full stretch dive to push out an Ugwu Uwadiegwu’ free kick from over twenty-five yards out for a harmless corner-kick on 75 minutes just as substitute, Chidera Ezeh’ twin efforts in quick succession on 80 and 82 minutes narrowly missed target.
Coach Olugbenga Ogunbote said after the encounter, “It was a good match that would have gone either way but we thank God for the result achieved. We continue our search for more away points to ensure we steady our position and push for a top three finish in the group. Our opponents gave us a good fight and to our credit we stood our ground.”
Captain Okey Odita who was a last minute substitute in the match, said, “We give God the glory for the result and we hope to keep fighting hard in subsequent matches to ensure we finish well in the league.”
Rangers will next engage Katsina United in a re-scheduled match day 2, fixture slated for Mohammed Dikko stadium, Katsina.