Rangers suffered their seventh defeat of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season following a one-nil loss at Akwa United in one of Sunday’s fixtures.
Ubong Friday scored the winner from the spot for the Promise Keepers on 79 minutes at the Eket Stadium in Akwa Ibom.
Rangers head coach Fidelis Ilechukwu made few changes to the squad that defeated Gombe United last week and it was total dominance for the Enugu side who created a lot of scoring opportunities but found Akwa United goalkeeper, Jean Efala, a hard nut to crack.
Chidiebere Nwobodo, Isaac Saviour and Chukwudi Nwaodu all had opportunities to put the visitors ahead in the first half but their efforts failed to trouble the shot-stopper.
In the 40th minute Nwobodo drilled in a shot that was headed for the top left corner after dribbling past three markers but Efala produced a stunning save to palm the shot out for a corner kick.
At the start of the second stanza, an injury-induced substitution saw Ifeanyi Onyebuchi exit the pitch for David Chimezie. A further triple substitution saw Nwaodu, Saviour, and Ifeanyi Ogba make way for Kazeem Ogunleye, Naziru Auwalu, and Godwin Obaje at the hour mark.
The hosts were further pushed back into their half with Nwobodo and Ogunleye probing for openings that also came in leaps and bounds but were not taken.
On 76 minutes, a ball from the left flank found its way into the visitors’ area. The referee spotted an infringement and awarded a penalty kick that was neatly converted by Ubong Friday to ensure Akwa United claim the full points.
Ilechukwu rued the missed chances of his team, adding that they “got punished” for their profligacy in front of goal.
“This is the game of football and anything is bound to happen. In the game of football, taking your chances matters a lot. We created over half a dozen chances but failed to take them and in the end, we got punished by the penalty call.
“We need to return home and right the wrongs we noticed in this game as we prepare for our outstanding match against Rivers United on Wednesday (January 24, 2024). We believe that we will get it right and begin the second round on a good note,” Ilechukwu told Rangers media.
Rangers will next play Rivers United in a re-arranged Matchday 11 fixture inside the main bowl of Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu.