Seven-time Nigeria league champions, Rangers International F.C, Sunday, December 19, 2021, annexed all three points at stake in a match day 1, NPFL 2021/2022 season with a 2-1 win over host’s, Katsina United inside Muhammadu Dikko stadium, Katsina, despite playing the last five minutes of the match with a man down.
Wing-wizard, Chidiebere Nwobodo reacted well as he outpaced his marker to run onto an Ossy Martins’ incisive pass to stab home the opening goal of the encounter on the quarter-hour mark.
The host took the battle to the visitors’ half of the pitch searching for an immediate equalizer but met a well-organized defense line led by Ernest Governor and Ebuka Anthony with goalkeeper, Saidu Mutawakilu alive to his duties to snuff out any threat.
On 35 minutes, Mustapha Salisu drew the Azeez Audu tutored side level with a precise finish to a fast paced neat interchange of passes that caught players of the visiting side unaware.
Ugochukwu Ugwuoke, Kenechukwu Agu, Tony Eliagwu and Ossy Martins were a constant threat to the host as the game lasted and would have scored more goals before the break but for some fine defending work from Mansoor Saleh and Habibu Yakubu.
Nine minutes into the second stanza, Ossy Martins was fed by a deep penetrating pass from Ugochukwu Ugwuoke which he guided well as defenders swooped on him to blast home for what turned out to be the winning goal of the match.
The host again, raised their game after conceding with Adamu Hassan, Mathew Emmanuel and Rasheed Ahmed pushing back the visitor’s backline but Ghanaian shot stopper, Saidu Mutawakilu was at his very best as he punched, parried and clutched shots aimed at his goal before he received a second caution on 85 minutes from the referee.
At the end of the encounter, coach Abdul Maikaba of Rangers said, “I am very happy with what my players did today in Katsina. There would have been more goals for us but we are glad with the ones converted that gave us the victory. It can only get better as the season progresses.”
To their credit, the security personnel on duty reacted well in leading the visiting team away from the stadium thirty minutes after the match ended as some fans reacted to the result of the match negatively just as no player or official got any bodily harm.
Meanwhile, Rivers United had to settle for a point at the Aper Aku Stadium on matchday one of the 2021/2022 NPFL season after a dramatic game that saw Nyima Nwagua put up a man of the match performance.
Ishaq Kayode gave the “Pride of Rivers” the lead in the 27th minute finishing off intelligently a brilliant move from Nyima Nwagua and Chijoke Akuneto.
The Stanley Eguma tutored side controlled possession and created chances before the half time break with Akuneto coming closest as his well-struck header was cleared off the line with the opposing goalkeeper beaten.
Two minutes after the restart, Barnabas Imenger draw level for the host as his effort from a free kick 20 yards out sealed into the net. Either sides went in search of the winning goal, but the game ended 1-1.
Rivers United’s 1-1 draw against Lobi Stars was the first time they have avoided defeat in six attempts playing away to Lobi in the NPFL.
Coach Stanley Eguma handed NPFL debut to six players. Five players made it to the starting line-up for this trip.
Sochima Victor started in goal, Chiamaka Madu partnered Uche Onwuansanya in midfield, Chijoke Akuneto and Nyima Nwagua all started further forward with Barnabas Daniel coming in as a late substitute.
It was a notable game for Nyima Nwagua as he was a thorn in the flesh for the Lobi Stars defenders earning for himself the man of the match award.
Rivers United Technical Manager Stanley Eguma is optimistic his side will be better in the coming weeks
“It’s the beginning of the season and we are sizing up our team. I believe my players will learn from their mistakes, we will correct them and get a better side next time.
Rivers United will host Katsina United on Sunday 26th December at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium.
NPFL MATCH DAY 1 RESULTS
MFM 0-2 Remo Stars
Gombe Utd 0-0 3SC
Akwa Utd 3-0 Kano Pillars
Niger Tornadoes 1-0 Plateau
Lobi 1-1 Rivers Utd
Katsina Utd 1-2 Rangers
Enyimba 2-1 Abia Warriors
Kwara Utd 3-0 Dakkada
Heartland 3-3 Nasarawa Utd