Rangers International F.C, extended its unbeaten run in all competitions to seven after being held 1-1 by Lobi Stars at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi on Wednesday in a re-scheduled NPFL match day 6 fixture.
Newly acquired attacking sensation, Israel Abia shot the visitors into the lead on 44 minutes as he connected an inch perfect cross from wing-back, Isaac Loute (His 3rd assist in three straight matches) who was set up by the ever impressive Ibrahim Olawoyin, to nod past the groping hands of Faith James who was between the sticks for the coach Gbenga Ogunbote tutored side.
To their credit, the host did not wait too long to be level terms as Mathias Samuel scored deep into first half added-on time as he reacted the quickest to Utibe Arit’ effort that came off the cross bar as Rangers’ failed to clear their line.
The encounter had started on a very fast tempo with the host probing for early openings which was hard at coming as Pape Ousmane and Semiu Liadi held tight to their duties.
Upfront, the coach Salisu Yusuf’ wards were rampaging with Ibrahim Yusuf, Kenechukwu Agu, Kehinde Adedipe and new-boy, Israel Abia, were a tough nut to handle for Lobi Stars’ backline and would have been up by two goals had Tope Olusesi and Kehinde Adedipe been more clinical when they were set up on 15 and 21 minutes of the game.
Samad Kadiri thought he had put the host in the lead on 25 minutes when he connected well with a John Lazarus’ inviting cross but Ghanaian shot stopper, Nana Bonsu produced an instinctive one-hand save to deny the home crowd a moment of celebration.
If the first stanza can be said belong to the visitors, the second was dominated by the host as injuries to Semiu Liadi and Nana Bonsu within a space of eight minutes, 53rd and 58th minutes, made the Rangers’ gaffer to make unwanted substitutions.
Abdulkareem Mumini and Omotayo Adebogun were a constant threat to Rangers backline in the second half with their dribbling and neat inter change of passes and would have shot into the lead on 57 minutes but Nana produced another world class save which got him injured in the process as Mumini’ curly shot look to be heading into the far corner.
Ifeangwu Ojukwu, one of the four new players in the ranks of Rangers that came in for Osas Okoro on 70 minutes had an opportunity to shoot the visitors into the lead again just five minutes of his introduction but goalkeeper, Faith John, did well to deny his well-placed shot off an inviting cross from Israel Abia.
Rangers assistant coach, Mbwas Mangut said after the encounter, “It was a good match and we are happy with the result as Lobi Stars gave us a good fight. We wanted to win but got a draw which to a very large extent is good as we work hard to see us move to the top bracket on the log.”
Isaac Loute, who delivered the cross that lead to Rangers’ goal said, “We thank God for the grace given us to come out with a draw even when we really wanted to win. I am particularly happy with my contributions to the team’ successes over three matches as that is the dream of every player to be important to his team at every moment. Lobi Stars are a good side coupled with the fact that we played against our former coach who seem to understand how we play. We hope to improve in our next game against Akwa United and maybe get much better result.”
Goal scorer, Israel Abia, who is on eight goals in the NPFL 2019/2020 season said after the match, “I thank God for helping me with the goal today even when I am not hundred percent fit. I thank my coach and team mates for their support in today’ result which I believe would get better with more games and much fitness. My target remains finishing as the top marksman in the season and help Rangers back to the continent. I thank our defenders for keeping us in the match.”
RANGERS TEAM: Nana Bonsu (Japhet Opubo – 58th min.), Tope Olusesi, Isaac Loute, Tony Shimaga, Pape Ousmane Sane, Semiu Liadi (Uche John -53rd min.), Osas Okoro (Ifeagwu Ojukwu -70th min.), Kenechukwu Agu, Israel Abia, Kehinde Adedipe, Ibrahim Olawoyin. SUBS NOT USED: Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Christian Madu, Dauda Madaki, Ifeanyi Nweke.
GOAL: Israel Abia -44th Minute.
Referee: Sani Babayo -Gombe state.