*Needs a draw to be crowned champions after 2-1 defeat of Ikorodu Utd
By Duro Ikhazuagbe with agency report
Rangers International is on the verge of ending its 32 years trophy drought following the Flying Antelopes’ 2-1 defeat of already relegated Ikorodu United at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta yesterday.
Standing at 60 points from 35 matches, the Flying Antelopes are three points ahead of second placed Rivers United who yesterday drew goalless with Abia Warriors at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt.
Just a point from Rangers last game against El Kanemi Warriors next Sunday at the Cathedral in Enugu is separating the Pride of Old Eastern Region from being crowned champions of the 2015/2016 NPFL season.
Although the Port Harcourt team is still hoping for a miracle, the Rivers State government-owned United will need atleast 6-0 defeat of relegation threatened Akwa United at the Nest of Champion in Uyo to upstage Rangers.
That again is based on the premise that the Flying Antelopes who already have their hands on the trophy are defeated right in front of their fans on a day they must have iced champagnes to celebrate this first title in 32 years.
FC Ifeanyiubah climbed into the third spot with continent ticket on sight. They defeated former champions Enyimba 1-0 in the last Oriental Derby of the season in Nnewi. Defender Isaac Loute scored the winner early in the game that meant nothing to Enyimba after they dropped out of the title race with the defeat to Abia Warriors penultimate weekend.
The man who last lifted the league trophy as captain of Rangers in 1984, Christian Chukwu, was among the thousands of football enthusiasts that thronged the Abiola Stadium in the Rocky City to witness the dress rehearsal of the crowning of his team again.
Former Flying Eagles star Obinna Nwobodo gave Rangers the lead with a speculative effort that flew over Ikorodu United goalkeeper Adamu Azeez on 25 minutes before Chisom Egbuchulam netted his 13th goal of the season seven minutes before the break, rendering Paul Duke’s late strike as a mere consolation for the Oga Boys.
Nwobodo did most of the work for that goal running from the midfield into the right flank and squaring across the front of the goal line for Egbuchulam to help in.
Imama Amapakabo’s wards did what they had done for the most parts of the season, leaving them three points clear of second placed Rivers United ahead of their last game.
In Ibadan, Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) secured top flight status for a third successive year after Samuel Olabisi’s 51st minute header gave them a 1-0 win over Wikki Tourists of Bauchi. The result also effectively ended Tourists’ slight hopes of snatching the league crown from within the grasps of the front runners.
Another team that guaranteed themselves of a further stay in the NPFL was Niger Tornadoes who dispatched MFM FC 3-1 at the Confluence Stadium in Lokoja.
In-form attacker Solomon Owello scored twice from the penalty spot in the first half before left back Gabriel Wassa took the game beyond the visitors five minutes after the interval. Youngster Stephen Odey scored a consolation goal for the Lagosians who drop to the relegation zone and now have it all to do on the final day against Ifeanyiubah in Lagos.
While Tornadoes steered clear of the drop, 10-man Warri Wolves dropped deeper into the mess after a narrow loss at Sunshine Stars of Akure.
Pint-sized midfielder Dayo Ojo headed home the only goal of the contest just after the hour mark before Wolves skipper Goodluck Onamado was sent off later on for a second bookable offense in a game played behind closed doors.
In Owerri, former Heartland goalkeeper David Obiazo produced a man-of-the-match performance, but was not enough to deny the Naze Millionaires maximum points against former champions Kano Pillars. Emeka Ogbugh scored the only goal of the game shortly after Obiazo had saved MacMarcel Obioha’s spot kick. The win takes Heartland just outside the relegation zone needing a win at Plateau United on the final day to be sure of safety.
In Maiduguri, El-Kanemi Warriors made it twelve straight home wins since returning home after a hard earned 1-0 win over Plateau United. Hussain Mohammed Bata scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot just before the hour mark.
In the day’s final game, Nasarawa United needed a stoppage time equaliser to deny visiting Akwa United the maximum points at the Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi.
Esosa Igbinoba put the hosts in front from the penalty spot early in the game but Akwa responded with quick fire goals from Hassan Babangida and Cyril Olisema.
Akwa United then had midfielder Yusuf Adio sent off six minutes from time before their hosts pulled level with virtually the last kick of the game.
MATCH DAY 37
Ikorodu Utd 1-2 Rangers
Tornadoes 3-1 MFM
Shooting 1-0 Wikki
Heartland 1-0 K’Pillars
IfeanyiUbah 1-0 Enyimba
El-Kanemi 1-0 Plateau Utd
Sunshine 1-0 W’Wolves
Nasarawa 2-2 Akwa Utd
Rivers Utd 0-0 Abia Warriors
Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
Rangers 35 17 9 9 49 37 12 60
Rivers Utd 35 18 3 14 36 28 8 57
Ifeanyiubah 35 16 8 11 37 32 5 56
Wikki 35 15 9 11 43 28 15 54
Sunshine 35 14 11 10 44 35 9 53
Lobi Stars 35 15 7 13 39 35 4 52
Pillars 35 15 6 14 46 39 7 51
El-Kanemi 35 16 3 16 37 38 -1 51
Nasarawa 35 16 2 17 41 41 0 50
Enyimba 36 14 8 14 34 35 -1 50
Tornadoes 35 15 3 17 39 41 -2 48
Plateau 35 13 9 13 32 35 -3 48
Akwa Utd 35 13 8 14 44 44 0 47
3SC 35 14 5 16 40 46 -6 47
Abia Warriors 35 11 12 12 33 38 -5 45
Heartland 35 11 10 14 24 29 -5 43
MFM FC 35 11 9 15 35 40 -5 42
Wolves 35 11 9 15 27 37 -10 42
Ikorodu Utd 35 7 11 17 32 54 -22 32
Giwa FC 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0