Rangers International FC regained their groove to beat visiting Abia Warriors 3-1 in one of the Oriental derbies that headlined the NPFL match day 16 on Sunday.
Rangers needed the win badly, not only to reassure their fans but especially to start their swim out of the relegation zone possibly before the season break. They have found themselves unenviable in the 19th position with 12 points, now 15.
And, they showed they meant business from the outset, launching three offensives on the opponents within four minutes. The pressure plan paid off with Ibrahim Oluwoyin raising the curtain in the 7th minute. His strike bounced off Chiamaka Madu and there was nothing goalkeeper Charles Tembe could do to save.
The early joy was however dimmed shortly after as Bello Lukman drew level for Abia Warriors just four minutes after.
The levelling up raised the tempo of the game and the duo of Adeleke Adekunle and Tunde Atilola Salami will pick yellow for desperate tackles. Anthony Okemmiri later joined the yellow book.
The tension also saw Rangers Team Manager, Davidson Owunmi, and former captain turned crew member, Okey Odita, race to the 4th referee to protest rough charges. The Abia Warriors bench also charged to the AR1 at a point.
The situation saw a near own goal by Abia Warriors when Adeleke threw himself to Emmanuel Nwokeji’s strike, turning the direction of the ball, but Tembe was alert. Rangers Keeper Nana Bonsu was also called to a deft save as Atilola had a heading advantage inside the six yard box but Bonsu was quick to cut him off mid air before any damage.
Rangers however got relief as Ifeanyi George put them in the lead again just before half time, connecting Nwokeji’s cross into the area and leaving Tembe no chance. He followed up with the consolidation goal and his brace in the 69th when he delivered a powerful right foot volley to Oluwoyin’s cross from the left flank.
Done deal. Rangers had the luxury of pulling out their two scorers to rest for Seka Pascal and Osas Okoro to taste some action. Ibrahim Madaki later came in for Kelvin Itoya.
Interestingly, despite contributing just one goal in the victory, as against Ifeanyi George’s brace, Oluwoyin was voted man of the match and he deserved it as clearly Rangers propeller up front. Curiously, he did not celebrate his goal. Why?
“It was a good feeling to score in the game. It was also a good feeling to score against my former team, Abia Warriors. I was there for about three years and they showed me love. That’s why I decided not to celebrate my goal against them as a mark of respect,” he told www.npfl.ng.
Abia’s lone scorer, Bello Lukman, is also unhappy that his goal counted for nothing.
“It’s okay that I scored but scoring is not the issue because it eventually didn’t count. What matters is the final result. What is important is not that you scored but that your team wins or draws to go home with at least a point but it didn’t go that way.”
Despite being in a comfortable 8th seat on the log with 21 points, Abia has not found the prestigious Oriental derbies easy this half of the season. So far, they have had only one win out of three games, beating FC IfeanyiUbah 2-1 in Umuahia and losing to Heartland FC at Owerri and now Rangers at The Cathedral, Enugu.
Perhaps, they will be hoping to get their own pound when they host Heartland and Rangers at home in May, in the second half of the season, when they will also go to Nnewi to complete the NPFL Oriental battles.