Enugu Rangers climbed to top spot in the Nigeria Professional Football League table after a well-deserved 3-2 away win over Akwa United at the magnificent Nest of Champions in Uyo.
United defender Ibukun Harrison scored in his own net to give Rangers the lead on 3 minutes but Fortune Omoniwari restored parity for the hosts on the dot of half time. Rangers went back in front after the hour mark through a cool finish by Chisom Egbuchulam before substitute Enete Chebem sealed victory with a 74th minute goal rendering Omoniwari’s late strike a mere consolation for the hosts.
Despite staying unbeaten in their last four league games, Rangers went into the game after an ignominious exit in the Federations Cup in the hands of second division Crown FC. The Flying Antelopes were however handed a dream start when a breakdown in communication between Akwa defender, Harrison and his goalkeeper Olufemi Kayode resulted in the former passing into his own net with just three minutes on the clock.
The visitors continued to dominate possession with their intricate passing style but it was their hosts that expectedly looked most likely to score the next goal. United midfielder spurned a glorious opportunity to even scores midway through the half when he blazed over with a gaping goal to score in after Rangers goalkeeper Nana Bonsu saved Fortune Omoniwari’s free kick.
The equalizer did come on 45 minutes when an unmarked Omoniwari produced a superb header to Friday Ubong’s precise cross from the right flank. The former Sharks star almost made it two goals within two minutes but his header in stoppage time was tipped over by Bonsu.
The second half of this Match Day 27 encounter started with both teams creating chances for themselves. United goalscorer Omoniwari once again saw his header from an Aniekan Ekoe corner tipped over by the impressive Rangers goalie, Bonsu before Tope Olusesi missed arguably the best chance of the game a minute later when he slipped in a one-on-one situation with Akwa goalie, Kayode with the goalkeeper managing to pull off a one-handed save on his scuffed effort.
Rangers went in front for the second time in the game when emergency right back Chinedu Ike gifted Ocheme Edoh the ball just outside his penalty area. The Giwa FC loanee hit a low pass across the face of goal which NPFL All Stars invitee Chisom Egbuchulam scored, beautifully displacing Kayode with his first touch.
That was Egbuchulam’s last major contribution on the game as he was substituted seven minutes later for Enete Chebem. It proved to be an inspired change by Rangers gaffer Imama Amapakabo as it took Chebem just six minutes to put the game beyond the hosts. A superb team goal started by Obinna Nwobodo ended in Godwin Aguda holding up the ball for Chebem whose first time effort went beyond Kayode into his bottom right corner.
The hosts poured forward in search of a route back into the game but a resilient Rangers defence backed by an impressive Ghanaian goalkeeper, Bonsu held out until stoppage time when Omoniwari scored his and Akwa’s second goal of the game, firing home in a crowded box.
Rangers held out for the remaining two minutes of stoppage time as they recorded only their first league win at Akwa United in eight years.
AKWA UNITED: 30. Kayode Olufemi 5. Connou Paterne 31. Kodjovi Dadzie 29. Chinedu Ike Brandon 11. Harrison Ibukun 35. Godspower Igudia 7. Friday Ubong 20. Yusuf Adio 9. Fortune Omoniwari 10. Aniekan Ekpe 26. Cyril Olisema
Subs: 18. Bassey Akpan 3. Chigozie Emmanuel 15. Emmanuel Ariwa 34. Alhassan Dhosso 14. Amaechi Orji 25. Augustine Candy 19. Kure Ebong
RANGERS: 25. Nana Bonsu 2. Etim Matthew 26. Chidiebere Okolie 13. Christian Madu 22. Kalu Orji 12. Chibuzor Madu 33. Tope Olusesi 6. Obinna Nwobodo 9. Ocheme Edoh 19. Godwin Aguda 11. Chisom Egbuchulam
Subs: 1. D’Jehani Nguesan 18. Okey Odita 29. Togaba Komlan 8. Enete Chebem 23. Nnamdi Anyasodo 24. Charles Agbo 4. Chimezie Amanfor
Referee: Ibrahim Umar Fagge.