By Tunde Liadi
Enugu Rangers were made to work very hard to beat FC IfeanyiUbah 2-1 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu in a Matchday 4 tie of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) to move to second on the table with nine points from three games.
The Flying Antelopes got the curtain-raiser off the boots of Israel Abia who converted from 12 yards in the 12th minute of the encounter for his second goal of the season.
Skipper, Ekene Awazie equalised briefly for the Anambra Warriors in the 51st minute, cashing in on Rangers’ goalkeeper, Nana Bonsu’s gaffe. It was Rangers substitute, Shedrack Asiegbu that got what turned out to be the match-winner for the home team six minutes later from a goal-mouth scramble.
Bouyed by their away victory in Kaduna against Jigawa Golden Stars last weekend Rangers began the game with Oriental neighbours, FC IfeanyiUbah impressively and had total domination of the tie in the opening 15 minutes.
The Flying Antelopes could have been two-goals up within the opening 5 minutes if not for the excellent reflex saves of young Anambra Warriors’ goalkeeper, Sharp Uzoigwe.
In the 2nd minute, the goalkeeper was on hand to tip a goal bound header from Abia to corner kick and three minutes later he was called to duty again when another well directed header by Chidiebere Nwobodo forced the goalie to make another fine save.
Rangers did make their irrepressible first-half performance count with the opening goal in the 12th minute after former FC IfeanyiUbah striker, Christian Nnaji was fouled in the 18 yard box by Evans Ogbonda a minute earlier. Abia didn’t make mistake from the spot-kick as he buried his effort to the bottom right corner of Uzoigwe.
The visitors were flat-footed in the first half and had their first shot on target in the 30th minute through captain fantastic Awazie who after collecting a long range pass from Tochukwu Anuenyiagu got the better of Rangers’ Osas Okoro but his pile-driver was tipped to safety by Bonsu.
If the first-half performance belonged to Rangers, the visitors changed all that in the second and could have equalised within the first minute of the game’s restart after Nonso Nzediegwu and Saidu Adamu broke free with the latter missing the opportunity by the whiskers.
FC IfeanyiUbah emerged from the half-time the better of the two teams and they did conjure up the equalising goal in the 51st minute through Awazie’s fortutious effort. There was a long thrust from the midfield which evaded Rangers defender, Ernest Governor but goalkeeper Bonsu came out to clear the ball. He failed to clear the ball properly and Awazie pounced on the loose ball to curl the effort into the net to even the scores.
Sensing danger, Rangers head coach, Salisu Yusuf sent on Dauda Madaki and Femi Ajayi in place of Kenechukwu Agu and largely subdued Abia in the 56th minute. The substitution paid off as the Flying Antelopes regained their lead a minute later through another substitute, Asiegbu who drilled the ball past Uzoigwe.
FC IfeanyiUbah with renewed sense of urgency continued to go in the hunt for the equaliser but they were repelled by Uche John led defence. The Anambra Warriors thought they had snatched a draw when Nonso Nzediegwu’s ballistic shot evaded Rangers netminder, Bonsu but the shot ricocheted the frame of the post and went out of touch in the 83rd minute.
Rangers held on to secure their third straight victory of the season after their opening day loss to Rivers United in Port Harcourt and they have moved to the second spot on the league table with nine points out of possible 12. But FC IfeanyiUbah are outside the midsection of the table with only three points from four games.
Enugu Rangers will make a long trip to Lagos as guests of MFM this weekend but FC IfeanyiUbah will welcome Oriental brothers, Abia Warriors to Nnewi as they hope to bounce back to winning ways on Sunday.
Enugu Rangers XI
Nana Bonsu, Osas Okoro, Ifeanyi Nweke,
Tony Shimaga, Ebuka Franklin (Uche John 65′), Ernest Governor, Kenechukwu Agu (Dauda Madaki 56′), Ugochukwu Ugwuoke (Shedrack Asiegbu 35′), Chidiebere Nwobodo, Israel Abia (Femi Ajayi 56′), Christian Nnaji (Ojukwu Ifegwu 65′)
Femi Thomas, Tope Olusesi, Chiamaka Madu, Godspower Aniefiok
Goals: Israel Abia 12′ (pen), Shedrack Asiegbu 57′ (Enugu Rangers)
Head Coach: Salisu Yusuf
FC IfeanyiUbah XI:
Sharp Uzoigwe, Christian Molokwu, Evans Ogbonda, Patrick Egeonu, Abel James, Tochukwu Anuenyiagu, Saidu Adamu (Samuel Matthew 76′), Nonso Nzediegwu, Ekene Awazie (C), Lukman Aliu, Uzochukwu Ifejiofor (Uche Onuoha 76′).
Franklin Akwari, Eric Oguocha, Joy Adejare, Maxwell Ijomah, Simeon Umeh.
Goal: Ekene Awazie 51′ (FC IfeanyiUbah
Yellow Card: Evans Ogbonda 11′ (FC IfeanyiUbah
Man of the Match: Ekene Awazie (FC IfeanyiUbah
Head Coach: Uche Okagbue