3SC Hold Rangers In Enugu

.Chisom Egbuchulan of Rangers (left) challenges Alaba Osawe of 3SC during Sunday’s Nigeria Pro-Football league match in Enugu. Photo credit: npfl.ng.

The oldest rivalry in Nigerian football did not fail to live up to its billing yet again as Rangers and Shooting Stars of Ibadan settled for a one-all draw at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu on Sunday evening.

Two second half penalties decided the contest. Chisom Egbuchulam netted from the spot in the 80th minute after Emmanuel Fabiyi felled him in the area and with two minutes played in second half added time, Tope Orelope replied at the other end ensuring a deserved point for the hardworking visitors.

On the basis of form, it looked like a routine win for the Rangers whose early season heroics had not only kept them top of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) pile but they were yet to drop any point at home this season.

It was a stark contrast to the form of the visitors who have had a torrid start to the season and in fact, in their last travel, they shipped in six. But as in such rivalries, form was flung out of the window.

Bobby Clement and Obinna Nwobodo were missing yet again from the Flying Antelopes’ match day squad. Ifeanyi Egwim led the line with Emeka Eze and Osas Okoro the two changes from their last weekend defeat.

For the visitors, coach Kadiri Ikhana was the notable absentee due to illness but had he been at the game, his team’s organizational discipline and resilience would surely have impressed him.

Shooting Stars made a clear intent from the start, sturdy defending and quicker to every ball. When without the ball, they maintained their shape, ensuring that at half time, Fabiyi had barely had a save to make. Once in that half, Godwin Aguda received the ball in the area, but it was quickly nicked off him before he would pull the trigger. Minutes afterward, Fabiyi was quickly off his line to thwart a through ball from Aguda to Egbuchulam.

Wasiu Jimoh and Cletus Itodo came close for Shooting Stars in that half, testing Itodo Akor from range but both strikes lacked the power to trouble the keeper. There was another chance for the visitors through Olukokun Najeem but his aim was far away from his target. The visitors ended the half on the ascendancy with Jimoh firing a free kick over.

Rangers looked more purposeful with their attacks after the interval but the Joseph Izu-led defence repelled all thrown at it.

Egbuchulam’s goal bound strike was blocked minutes before his cross from the left rolled harmlessly across the Shooting Stars goal and onto safety. Moments later, Fabiyi made a brave one-on-one save as Egbuchulam advanced at his goal.

Rangers coach Imama Amapakabi withdrew Ifeanyi Egwim for Temitope Olusesi. The substitute spent six minutes on the pitch before he too was substituted this time due to injury.

The opener however came 10 minutes from time when Chisom Egbuchulam was brought down by Fabiyi in the area. He stepped up, sending the resultant spot kick beyond the goalkeeper.

Refusing to be undone, Shooting Stars went in search of an equalizer and their reward came when Etim Matthew stuck out a hand in the area to stop the ball, the referee reciprocating with a penalty call at the Rangers’ end.

Tope Orelope who missed a spot kick in this tie last season sent Akor the wrong way, salvaging a goal and a point for the men in blue.

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