It was another scintillating performance from the wards of coach Salisu Yusuf who despite playing the last quarter hour of the match day 25, NPFL fixture against host, Dakkada F.C of Uyo, held out to earn its second win on the road courtesy of a 3-2 win.
The ‘Flying Antelopes’, Rangers International F.C did not start the game the way it wished as some hesitant defending gifted Femi Ajayi the opening goal on 5 minutes to send the bench of the host and the few identified officials into wild jubilations as the match was played behind closed doors.
To their credit, the former league champions did not show any sign of being stunned but took the battle to the half of the host with ceaseless attacks which yielded dividends on 20 minutes as Israel Abia reacted well to an Ibrahim Olawoyin’ defense splitting pass.
Chinonso Eziekwe thought he had put his side in front for the first time in the game four minutes later but his effort was chalked off by the referee for being in off side position when he finished what could arguably be described as the best move in the match.
Olawoyin was on hand in the 42nd minute to slam home his fifth of the campaign as the host’ backline were caught napping even as Imo Obot, Eso Archibong, Aniekan Ekpe and Femi Ajayi kept asking vital questions of Rangers rear guard but Nana Bonsu stood his ground to deny the coach Caleb Esu tutored side over three opportunities.
On the return of both teams for the second stanza, the host pushed forward in search for an equalizer with ceaseless attacks but Anthony Franklin and Uche John did well in the heart of defense but failed to stop Ajayi Femi from grabbing his brace in the match on 63 minutes due to slack defending.
Abia scored his second of the day which turned out to be the winning goal of the encounter on 70 minutes as he was set up by Tony Shimaga in a counter-attacking move.
Shimaga was later to be shown a second caution on 78th minute and reduced the playing strength of the visiting side who did well to contain all that was thrown at them by the host who earlier in the season, shocked the Enugu side, 2-0 in Enugu, until the referee brought proceedings to an end.
Assistant coach of Rangers, Mbwas Mangut, said after the encounter, “It was a good match that brought out the best in our team especially when we had one of our players sent off the pitch. We shall continue to perfect our strategies as we hope to end the season on a high. Our opponent gave us a good fight today but we had our work cut out and thank God we got the win.”
Two goals hero, Israel Abia, said, “It was a tough match for us but we were determined to leave Uyo with a win. For my two goals, I knew I had to score and God granted my efforts and that of the entire team with this much sought victory.”
With the win, Rangers moved up the log from 5th to 4th with 37 points from 24 matches played and will be tackling Lobi Stars of Makurdi at the weekend in Enugu in a match day 26, NPFL fixture.
RANGERS TEAM: Nana Bonsu, Osas Okoro, Ifeanyi Nweke, Tony Shimaga, Uche John, Anthony Franklin, Ugwuoke Ugochukwu (Issif Traore 55th Min.), Chinonso Eziekwe (Nnamdi Egbujuo -75th Min.), Israel Abia (Kenechukwu Agu – 77th Min.), Chiamaka Madu, Ibrahim Olawoyin.
SUBS NOT USED: Saidu Mutawakilu, Kehinde Adedipe, Sadick Abass, Emmanuel Nwokeji.
GOALS: Israel Abia – 20th & 70th minutes, Ibrahim Olawoyin 42nd minute.