After his side snatched all three points from a 1-0 win against table topping Remo Stars, Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu is beginning to nurse a belief that Rangers could earn a podium finish at the end of the season.

A sublime free kick from about 25 meters taken by a substitute, Agu Kenechukwu, found its way past a stranded Bankole Kayode to nestle in the net on 56 minutes and turned out to be the match-winner for the ‘Flying Antelopes’, Rangers International.

Ahead the fixture, Ilechukwu had showed respect for the visitors, describing them as champions in waiting. He made the remark last Saturday following an impressive win away to Doma United in Gombe.

Rangers have now moved to the third spot ahead of Enyimba who will play against Gombe United on Thursday and a win will push Rangers back to fourth.

Ilechukwu spoke after the match at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu and again expressed respect for the opponents managed by power dresser, Dan Ogunmodede.

The Rangers Manager was of the opinion that their chances remaining games of the season are brighter following the defeat of a strong side like Remo Stars.

“It was a great match we had today, and deservedly, we emerged the winner against a quality side like Remo Stars. They gave us a good fight but we knew what we wanted and went for it even when our first team left much to be desired”.

Our substitutions did the magic for us just as the entire team fought a good fight for the maximum points. We keep working on our remaining matches with high optimism that we shall be rewarded at the end of the season.”

Ilechukwu fielded the starting squad that defeated Doma United in Gombe over the weekend but a well-knit defense line deployed by Ogunmodede ensured that the game failed to record a goal in the first stanza.

Chances came and went for the Rangers trio of Kazeem Ogunleye, Godwin Obaje, and Chidiebere Nwobodo but the backline of the visitors led by Junior Nduka and Fabian Nworie gave a good cover to their goalkeeper and when it was spurned, Kayode Bankole was always alert to produce the needed save.

Two early substitutions in the second stanza saw Kenechukwu and Odoh Joel take the places of Zulkifilu Rabiu and Ugwueze Chinemerem and the visitors were pushed back into their defensive shells as the home side pushed for the all-important opening goal.

In one of his mazy runs which saw him dribbling past over three tackling legs, Nwobodo was fouled a few meters before the eighteen yeards box and the referee made the call that saw Kenechukwu swinging the ball past the wall of defense and into a yawning net to send the fans into wild celebrations.

Bankole had to bring out his best between the sticks to punch out another Kenechukwu corner kick that was headed for the far corner at 66 minutes and another brave block to prevent a Kenechukwu free kick at 67 minutes.

There was an opportunity for the visitors on 74 minutes but Opubo Japhet made himself big to snuff out that opportunity as the crowd heaved a huge sigh of relief.

David NPFL
February 28, 2024
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