It was a fine display of attacking football from the forward line of Rangers International F.C in the re-scheduled Match Day 23 fixture against neighbours, Heartland in an ‘Oriental Derby’ that ended with a solitary strike by Ifeanyi George on 23 minutes separating both sides.
The seven time champions could have ended the encounter with more harvest of goals but for the splendid goalkeeping by Japhet Odobo and some unpardonable misses for the attackers lined up by coach Olugbenga Ogunbote.
Ogunbote had made three changes to the team that lost to Katsina United last week with Chibuzor Madu taking the place of Pape Ousmane while Ifeanyi George and Chiamaka Madu got the nod to start.
Heartland trio of Moses Akinede, Zidine Ahmeje and Okey Nwadike did little to trouble the backline of the host but conversely, Rangers quartet of Chiamaka Madu, Felix Ogbuke, Ifeanyi George and Uche Nwofor found their rhythm early in the game and could have found the back of the net in the first quarter of the match but George’s effort on 12 minutes crashed against the cross bar and out for safety.
Dribbling wizard, Felix Ogbuke continued to torment the back four of the visitors with his incisive play from the flanks and one of his deliveries missed several challenging legs to fall kindly for Ifeanyi George to have the easiest of finish on 23rd minute, his fourth goal for the current campaign, just three minute after he missed a begging opportunity.
Early in the second half, Rangers were handed a numerical advantage as Ike Thankgod was shown the red card by the referee after his second caution but the host could not take full advantage.
Goalkeeper, Japhet Opobo and wastefulness on the part of Rangers attackers combined to rob the match of more goals the shot stopper made saves after saves as the host’ attackers smelled blood.
Chiamaka Madu could not believe how his shot from the edge of the box missed target on 70 minutes just after Ifeanyi George’ headed effort that was heading for the top corner was tipped over the bar while Godwin Zaki, Okereke Maduabuchi efforts on 73 and 83 minutes failed to increase the tally as the large crowd yelled for more goals.
Substitute, Francis Moomoh, for the visitors almost drew level on the stroke of full time as he robbed Odita of the ball in the centre cycle and raced towards Femi Thomas’ goal area but a timely challenge from Chibuzor Madu saved the day for the host who would have rued the over half a dozen chances that went begging.
Coach Ogunbote said after the encounter, “We knew it was never going to be an easy match but we did well to get the maximum points even when we could have raked in more goals today, I thank God for the victory. We shall continue to work on our finishing as we wasted quite a number of chances that would have made the score line more embarrassing for our visitors. Let me also thank our fans who stood behind us in those trying moments.”
Coach Ere Dokubor said, “The red card really affected our game. Nobody will be comfortable playing one man down. This is one of our worst games we have played so far this season and I really can’t tell what went wrong with some of my players. I am not under any form of pressure as I have a target before joining the team in the second round.”
RANGERS TEAM: Femi Thomas, Tope Olusesi, Isaac Loute, Christian Madu, Okey Odita, Chibuzor Madu, Ajani Ibrahim (Okereke Maduabuchi), Uche Nwofor (Godwin Zaki -53rd Min.), Chiamaka Madu, Felix Ogbuke (Kelvin Itoya -82nd Min.). SUBS NOT USED: Nana Bonsu, Akpos Adubi, Solomon Okpako, Chigozie Christopher.
GOAL: Ifeanyi George
HEARTLAND TEAM: Opobo Japhet, Uche Oguchi, Oparaugo Chukwudi, Ubido Julius (Egbujo Nnamdi 66th Min.), Ikwucobano Kenneth, Ike Thankgod, Amaechi Orji, Faud Ekelojite, Moses Akinade (Emmanuel Olowo -57th Min.), Zidine Ahmeje, Okey Nwadike (Francis Moomoh -85th Min.). SUBS NOT USED: Itua Osayi, Onyechefula Onyebuchi, Dikoo Pupmen, Lucky Emariojaiye.