Rangers International F.C did not start the NPFL/DMF Preseason Super Cup 2022 tournament the way they wanted as they were set back by the 71st minute, Elijah Akanni’ goal for neighbors, Enyimba International F.C at the Remo Stars Stadium, Ikenne, Ogun state, Tuesday.
The cagy but entertaining encounter saw the Aba side dictate the pace of the game early in the first half but failed to make it count with attempts at goal as the ‘Flying Antelopes’ enjoyed that with Chidiebere Nwobodo and Reuben Bala drawing great saves from Ojo Olorunleke who stood between the sticks for Enyimba.
With both sides still looking for the best way to go past their opposition, coach Maikaba introduced the duo of Saidu Adamu and Samuel Pam for Emmanuel Charles and Michael Ibe, and the tempo of the game swung in the favor of the Enugu side but Olorunleke stood his ground to thwart all attempts aimed at his goal.
As the game crept past the 70th-minute mark, substitute, Elijah Akanni ran unto a defense-splitting pass to slot past Emeka Nwabulu who was also fantastic on the night with some reflex saves to keep out a few attacks launched at his goal.
There were chances for substitutes, Inemesit Sunday, Christian Nnaji, and Shedrack Asiegbu to draw the Enugu side level late into the game but it was not meant to be as Ojo Olorunleke pushed, punched, and parried them out to safety.
Coach Abdul Maikaba, in a post-match chat, said that the loss was painful but he was hopeful of turning the curve and playing in the final match of the tournament stressing.
“It was a good game and Enyimba deserve to win. They played very well. But, I am happy that my players improved much in the later part of the game and I think we have to continue from there going into other matches in the tournament with our target now to be amongst the finalist. It will be difficult but we can achieve it.”
Rangers will next play against old rivals, Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) at the same venue in a Match Day 2fixture with the Ibadan enjoying its stay at the top of the four-team log after harvesting a 3-0 win over Bendel Insurance in the first match of the day.
Trophies and cash money will be given to winners of the inaugural edition of the tournament just as there is an individual award to the M.V.P and Top scorer.