It was another fine display from the coach Salisu Yusuf’ tutored Rangers International F.C as the ‘Flying Antelopes’ continued their winning streak inside Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium, with another lone goal win over visiting, Rivers United in a match day 24, NPFL 2019/2020 fixture decided on Sunday.
Chinonso Eziekwe was the hero of the day again as his 40th minute effort off an Israel Abia assit was what turned out to be the match winner just as it was mid-week, when Katsina United came visiting at ‘The Cathedral’ in a rescheduled fixture.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ came into this encounter with a fearsome resume over the last four rounds of games and were looking to maintain their unbeaten run but met a difficult and determined bunch in Rangers with the quartet of Israel Abia, Ibrahim Olawoyin, Chinonso Eziekwe and Ugochukwu Ugwuoke pulling the strings upfront for the host.
Rangers was the quicker off the block as FIFA badge referee, Abdulsalam Kassem signaled the start of hostilities and would have been up as early as the 8th minute but for the heroics of Drissa Bamba, who was between the sticks for the visitors.
Two minutes later, Israel Abia had a golden opportunity to get the massive crowd that turned out for the game celebrating after he was set up by Eziekwe but his effort was bravely stopped by Bamba.
It was the turn of lanky, Ogbonna Onuoha to open score for the visitors but he held on too long on the ball for Rangers’ defenders to recover on 12 minutes while Stephen Gopey thought that he had the ball in the net on 14 minutes but it was the side net as the visitors went on the offensive.
On 19 minutes of play, Eziekwe missed an opportunity to connect an inviting Olawoyin’ deep cross with Bamba in no-mans-land while the mandatory one minute clap for late Nasarawa United defender, Chineme Martins was observed on the 20th minute as the over five thousand spectators that came out for the match participated in the ritual as requested by the league organizers, LMC.
With the game only ten minutes to the mid-way mark, Bamba was alert to snuff out another promising move from the host as he made a full-length dive to push out an Eziekwe’ cross destined for the head of Abia.
On 40 minutes, in a rear counter attacking move that saw Olawoyin retrieve the ball deep inside the host’ half, ran with the ball for over fifty meters to release Abia on the left whose inch perfect cross connected with Eziekwe’ head but Bamba beat it out but only as far as the feet of the young attacking sensation to jab into a yawning net for his fifth goal of the season in all competitions.
The host continued from where it left off in the second half with ceaseless attacks but brilliant goalkeeping from Drissa Bamba and misses from the front men of Rangers meant the highly entertaining encounter failed to produce another goal as Rangers backline ably marshaled by Uche John and Anthony Franklin remained alert for any slip till the end of the match.
The win takes the former league champions to the 5th position on the log with 34 points from 23 matches while Rivers United remain in the 2nd position with 42 points from 24 matches.
Rangers will mid-week, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, travel down to Uyo for a match day 25 fixture against Dakkadar F.C who inflicted a 2-0 defeat on the ‘Flying Antelopes’ in the reverse fixture in Enugu.
Speaking after the encounter, assistant coach of Rangers, Mbwas Mangut, said, “The outcome of the match is a result of hard work from all concerned. We were able to possess the ball and had a better transition from defense to attack. We needed to deny our opponent the ball and pass around well. Rivers United fought a good fight but we wanted the victory more. The fans were great today and I appeal that they keep supporting us till we get to our target.”
Coach Stanley Eguma of Rivers United said, “The two teams played good football but Rangers put more on us and it paid off for them towards the closing stages of the first half. Despite the loss, we are still in the race for the league shield and we shall give the remaining matches all the attentions they deserve.”
Also speaking after the match, midfield maestro, Chiamaka Madu said, “It was a tough game but we gave it our all to ensure we win the game. Rivers United is always a tough team to play anytime but we showed more determination to win. Thank God our efforts gave us the victory and we shall continue to fight for all available points both home and away but it shall be one match at a time.”
RANGERS TEAM: Nana Bonsu, Tope Olusesi (Osas Okoro -75th min.), Ifeanyi Nweke, Tony Shimaga, Uche John, Anthony Franklin, Ugochukwu Ugwuoke (Kenechukwu Agu -52nd Min.), Chinonso Eziekwe (Sadick Abass -81st Min.), Israel Abia, Chiamaka Madu, Ibrahim Olawoyin. SUBS NOT USED: Saidu Mutawakilu, Issif Traore, Emmanuel Nwokeji, Nnamdi Egbujuo.
GOAL: Chinonso Eziekwe – 40th Minute.
Referee: Abdulsalam Kassem – FIFA – Zamfara.