By Norbert Okolie
Seven-time Nigeria league champions and defending Aiteo cup champions, Rangers International F.C this afternoon inside Agege Township stadium, fought back gamely to end its tie with Kano Pillars 1-1 even with a man down in the match day 4 of NPFL Championship play-off.
Both sides brought their A game to the fore with Kano Pillars relying on Nyima Nwangwa, Rabiu Ali and Ebuka David to cause the ‘Flying Antelopes’ some troubles but coach Ogunbote’ wards did well to contain them at the back.
Rangers gaffer handed starts to Japhet Opubo, Sane Pape and Ugochukwu Ugwuoke in the top of the bill encounter which was a replay of last season’ Aiteo cup final but tried as much as both sides did, there was no goal to show for their efforts even as Rangers was forced to make an early change as Tony Shimaga cupped an injury as early as the 20th minute to make way for Christian Madu.
With both sides tied going into the break, Rangers came back the stronger with Bobby Clement, Michael Uchebo and Ugochukwu Ugwuoke pulling the strings but Emmanuel Anyanwu and Sunday Chinedu stood their ground to rebuff all that was thrown at them.
With the game approaching the hour mark, a rash challenge from Ugwuoke gifted the ‘Sai Masu Gida’ side a free kick from the edge of the box and ‘Old War Horse’, Rabiu Ali expertly dispatched it for the opening goal of the encounter on 57 minutes.
Rangers was later to suffer further pains as Tope Olusesi was shown the second caution and sent off by the referee on 73 minutes while Semiu Liadi also limped off injured a minute later.
Godwin Aguda did equalize for Rangers from the penalty spot on 88 minutes after Chinedu Sunday was adjudged to have handled the ball in the vital area.
Coach Olugbenga Ogunbote said after the match, “A good game but injuries did us in. We met a good side but we again missed some chances we created. All hope is not lost for achieving our target of coming to Lagos.”
Godwin Aguda said, “I really thank God for the result we were able to achieve today against Kano Pillars. It was a difficult match but we did our best in the circumstances we found ourselves. We still have hope of getting what we came to Lagos to do.”
With this result, Rangers are still placed fourth on the log with five points from four matches while Kano Pillars, Enyimba and Akwa United are placed first, second and third with eight and six points apiece with Enyimba still to play F.C Ifeanyiubah on match day 4.
RANGERS TEAM: Japhet Opubo, Tope Olusesi, Ugwu Uwadiegwu, Tony Shimaga (Christian Madu -23rd Min.), Pape Ousmane, Semiu Liadi (Akpos Adubi – 73rd Min.), Godwin Aguda, Ugochukwu Ugwuoke (Ifeanyi Egwim – 58th Min.), Bobby Clement, Michael Uchebo, Chiamaka Madu. SUBS NOT USED: Femi Thomas, Solomon Okpako, Chidera Ezeh, Felix Ogbuke.
GOAL: Godwin Aguda – 88 Minutes (Pen).