NPFL: League leaders Enugu Rangers taste defeat in Katsina

Despite suffering its first defeat in eleven matches in the 2023/2024 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season through a 4-3 loss to Katsina United FC inside Muhammadu Dikko Stadium, Katsina in a match day 29 fixture, Rangers International FC of Enugu continues to maintain the prime position on the twenty-team log.

Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu, the reigning League Bloggers Award (LBA) Coach-of-the-Month, kept faith with the squad that defeated Sunshine Stars in a mid-week fixture except for the duo of Austin Opara and Kenneth Igboke whose places were taken up by David Chimezie and Philip Clement but the team did not get the start it craved for in the encounter.

The ‘Chanji Boys’ took a shock lead in 4 minutes after some hesitant defending allowed Falolu Azeez to power home a connecting header past Japhet Opubo but Rangers fought back gamely and was level on 9 minutes when Isaac Saviour blasted an unstoppable shot past Pius Ibrahim.

On 16 minutes, Michael Ibe benefited from a goal mouth melee to poke home, and from the restart of the game, Rangers were back on level terms as Godwin Obaje scored with a fierce shot.

With the first seemingly coming to an end on a draw, Michael Ibe’s snapshot from the edge of the box nestled in the net in 45 minutes sent the home fans into wild jubilation as both reside retired to the locker rooms from the scorching sun of Katsina.

Whatever coach Ilechukwu may have told his wards at the break was quickly scuttled by the home side as they scored another goal just three minutes into the second stanza as Patrick Okoko benefited from some slow reactions from the backline of the ‘Flying Antelopes’ in dealing with a Chidera Ezeh’ corner-kick.

Coach Ilechukwu rang some changes as the game went into the last quarter-hour and it was the substitute, Joel Odoh, who reacted well to connect home with his head, a Kazeem Ogunleye corner-kick.

Efforts to find the final punch to tie the game failed to see the light of day as Ejike Ugochukwu’s long-range effort missed the target by whiskers on added time of the game.

Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu said in a post-match chat, “I think it was a great game today for both teams. Scoring three goals in an away game is not an easy one but conceding four goals is not acceptable in football. I am so sad about that, but we can only move on as today’s game is gone. All we need to do is to psyche the boys up identify the challenging area and make the corrections going into our next game.”

With 51 points from 29 matches and a healthy goal differential, Rangers remain on top of the twenty-team log for the third week running and will next trade tackles with Abia Warriors on Sunday, April 14, 2024, inside ‘The Cathedral’, Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu.