Ajani Ibrahim’s 40th minute proved decisive as Rangers beat Enyimba 1-0 in an NPFL Matchday 5 tie in Enugu on Sunday.
The Oriental Derby lived up to expectations with the Flying Antelopes keeping the visitors on the back foot from the blast of the whistle.
From the fifth minute when Chidera Ezeh’s free-kick rattled Theophilus Afelokhai’s hands, the visitors made a statement of their intent.
Seven minutes later, Ifeanyi George hit the woodwork after being teed up by Ajani Ibrahim.
Rangers kept piling the pressure and by the 18th minute, they had racked up three corner-kicks in as many minutes.
Enyimba fought back and in the 23rd minute, Ibrahim Mustapha’s 20-yard cannon was parried into corner by Nana Bonsu.
Seven minutes later, Chukwuka Onuwa’s speculative long range effort went wide.
Rangers took back the initiative in the 33rd minute when Michael Uchebo toe-poked Ajani Ibrahim’s cross wide.
Five minutes later, Uchebo got his head on Chidera Ezeh’s cross but the ball was just inches off-target.
Rangers were drawing closer and it was only a matter of time before the goal came. In the 40th minute, Ajani guided in Ifeanyi George’s cross.
The hosts could have been two goals up two minutes later when Godwin Aguda latched unto Ajani’s cross but his well-curled effort missed target by the whiskers.
As expected, Enyimba were the more desperate in the second half as they searched for the equaliser.
In the 78th minute, the ball ricocheted to Ibrahim Mustapha inside Rangers box but he blasted it wide.
Mustapha was much closer to target with his acrobatic effort from Bashir Abdulrahman’s cross in the 86th minute. That would have been a contender for goal of the season.
The next minute, Rangers’ Bobby Clement was sent off for a second bookable offence. Lucky Rangers! If this had happened earlier, Enyimba could have taken advantage.
Ultimately, Rangers had to hang on for the maximum points.
Rangers: Nana Bonsu, Chidera Ezeh, Isaac Loute, Ugonna Uzochukwu, Pape Ousmane, Semiu Liadi, Ajani Ibrahim (Kelvin Itoya, 83′, Adubi Akpos, 90′)), Chiamaka Madu, Godwin Aguda, Ifeanyi George, Michael Uchebo (Bobby Clement, 67′)
Subs not used: Femi Thomas, Roland Koffi, Pascal Seka, Solomon Okpako.
Enyimba: Theophilus Afelokhai; Stanley Okorom, Nelson Ogbonnaya, Ifeanyi Anaemena, Benjamin Francis, Thomas Zenke (Bashir Abdulrahman, 85′), Farouk Mohammed, Austin Oladapo, Chukwuka Onuwa (Wasiu Alalade, 46′), Joseph Osadiaye (Freedom Omofoma, 64′), Ibrahim Mustapha
Subs not used: Fatau Dauda; Ernest Governor, Dare Olatunji, Jean-Marie Guera
Rangers 1-0 Enyimba
On target 2-4
Red card 1-0
Cautions: Godwin Aguda (56′), Bobby Clement (75′, 87′)
Red Card: Bobby Clement (87′)