Rangers International F.C, the ‘Flying Antelopes’, dug very deep into their reserves to ward off the attacks of host, Akwa United in the match day 19, NPFL 2019/2020 fixture held at the ‘Nest of Champions’, Godswill Akpabio stadium, to come out with a deserved draw and extend its unbeaten run to eight in all competitions.
It was by far the most difficult match prosecuted since the arrival of coach Salisu Yusuf but the vastly traveled gaffer and his wards came up with a well-knit defense to keep out the rampaging Akwa United quartet of Etboy Akpan, Ndifreke Effiong, Orok Akarandut and Ukeme William.
Coach Yusuf, who rested five of the players that started against Lobi Stars in a re-scheduled tie, midweek, set up a 3-5-2 formation with new boys, Ifeagwu Ojukwu and Israel Abia saddled with the task of leading the attack and they did not fail as their combination did result in what was the only ball that kissed the net on the second minute but was chopped off by the referee to the relief of the home crowd.
This warning shot from the visitors brought out the best from the host as Ali Chiwendu joined the front line in searching for openings in the rear of the visitors but Senegalese defense lynch-pin, Pape Ousmane Sane led from the back with perfection.
Twice, the host opened up Rangers back line but Japhet Opubo was alive to his duties to snuff out the dangers especially on 28 minutes when Orok’ curly shot seemed to be sailing into the bottom corner.
With both teams coming back for the second half on even note, coach Yusuf opted for a more attacking formation as Ibrahim Olawoyin and Kenechukwu Agu were thrown into the fray for Ikechukwu Ibenegbu and Ifeagwu Ojukwu and their impact was felt as the host were pushed back for the first twenty minutes of the second period as their combination was enough to set up Abia on goal at the hour mark but he was muscled down by Denis Nya as he was about to pull the trigger with the goalkeeper at his mercy.
Japhet Opubo was to make two great instinctive saves on 76 and 80 minutes as he reacted well to push Ndifreke’ connecting header over the bar and blocked out substitute, Dare Ojo’ long range shot.
At the end of the encounter, assistant coach Mbwas Mangut said, “It was a good but very tough match we played today against a very organized side. We came here with the plan to catch them on the counter but the few times we attempted they were fast to cover up. This is by far the toughest match we have played since coming on board and I commend my players for holding out for the result we achieved. We keep working till we get the right mix to take us to the top level on the log.”
Non-playing captain, Okey Odita said, “It was a really tough match that we gave our all to get something. We go back home to work for our next game which I believe will end on a more positive note.”
Rangers will on Wednesday, 12th February, 2019 trade tackles with Jigawa Golden Stars F.C of Dutse in a re-scheduled match day 7 fixture inside the main bowl on Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium, Enugu with kickoff slated for 4.00pm.