NPFL: High-flying Rangers Tamed in Port Harcourt

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Ossy Martins

Duro Ikhazuagbe

High-flying Rangers International FC suffered their worst defeat of the season in the rescheduled NPFL Match-day 9 clash with Rivers United yesterday in Port Harcourt, conceding three un-replied goals.

It was the second back-to-back defeat for the Flying Antelopes who remain the leaders of Group A of the 2018/19 NPFL season on 21 points from 16 games. The Coal City landlords are six points clear of second placed Enyimba FC of Aba with MFM FC third on 24 points.

Goals by Malachi Ohawume (36 mins), Wasiu Jimoh (59 mins) and Nelson Esor (76mins) at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium ensured that Rivers United leapt out of the drop zone to fifth spot in the standing on same 23 points as Lobi Stars.

While the scoreline suggests a comprehensive rout, it indeed was more of an efficient display by the hosts who until yesterday had failed to score more than one goal in a league match this season.

Rangers however can attribute their woeful outing to a fairly depleted side through injuries after a hectic run of schedule.

Scorer of United’s first goal; Ohawume was rewarded with a fantastic State FA Cup form as he was handed a rare start in the league while defender Kunle Odunlami was deployed as a holding midfielder for the Pride of Rivers.

Rangers actually started the stronger of the two sides and should have taken the lead inside the opening five minutes when some intricate passing opened up the United rear guard which left captain, Godwin Aguda face to face with the hosts’ goalkeeper, Abiodun Akande.

The forward struck a goal bound effort firmly enough but a heroic goal line clearance by Kunle Odunlami had the collective hearts of the home faithful beating rhythmically again.

United then began to make important inroads as they grew in stature and confidence.

Nine minutes before the interval, United deservedly took the lead through Ohawume who struck with guile and accuracy from a tight angle to set the tone for a brilliant and assured second half display which was to produce two brilliantly-taken goals.

Jimoh scored the game’s second goal, a well-taken finish from close range following an exhilarating team move that left the visitors’ defence in sixes and sevens.

Nelson Esor netted a sumptuous third which mirrored the second in terms of quality and build up, with a quarter of an hour remaining on the clock as the hosts proceeded to entertain the spectators with some outrageous bit of showboating to run down the clock.

Technical Manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma told the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng that it was a good performance.

“It was a good game and a good performance against a very strong Rangers side that are top of the league (Group A) standings.

“We studied their games, mapped out the strategy to clip (their wings) in Port Harcourt.

“My players were very focused to get the job done and this result is a very motivating one for the football club,” Eguma said.

Head coach of Rangers, Gbenga Ogunbote also voiced his sentiments on his post-match assessment with assembled media.

“We had a bad day and sometimes, you cannot explain (things like this). We had a couple of chances (through which) we could have taken the lead, but it did not happen,” he explained.