Enugu Rangers continued their recent resurgence with a morale-boosting goalless draw at Akwa United on Sunday, which extended their unbeaten run in the Nigeria Professional Football League to five matches and eight in all competitions.
The Flying Antelopes clearly went into the fixture at the Nest of Champions with a game plan to soak up the pressure and launch counter-attacks when possible.
In the end, it proved useful though there were ocassions they were nearly pressured into turning the ball into their own net.
Salisu Yusuf’s side could have been reduced to ten men after Pape Sane’s awful high boot on Akarandut Orok. The referee only booked the defender.
Israel Abia, Rangers’ main attacking outlet on the evening, endured a fierce battle with Denis Nya. Quite often, the former Sunshine Stars man threatened the Akwa defender but Nya stood his ground.
Akwa United, who were looking to close in on the top-three, dominated the game but could only create a few chances.
Their best opportunity came in the 74th minute when Ndifreke Effiong rose above his marker to connect with Ali Chiwendu’s exquisite cross. The forward’s header looked destined for the net, only for goalkeeper Japhet Opubo to tip it over the bar.
Midway into the first half, Ali went agonisingly close to giving the hosts the lead directly through a cornerkick. His effort could only crash against the crossbar.
Opubo then managed to gather Maurice Chukwu’s deflected shot, before a misplaced headed clearance fell to Ifeanyi Eze, who fired over the bar.
On 33 minutes, Rangers defender Franklin Anthony nearly headed into his own net following great pressure by the home side.
After the interval, Kennedy Boboye’s men continued where they left off in the first half — and they almost scored within a minute. Eze saw his close-range effort spilled by Opubo and the loose ball hurriedly cleared before he could latch onto it.
Moments later, sustained pressure from the hosts created panic at the visitors’ back, forcing another poor defensive header, which missed the Rangers goal by inches.
The Promise Keepers continued to pile pressure on Yusuf’s side after the hour mark, but Rangers defended their area resolutely — with a well-timed headed clearance preventing Ubong Friday’s cross from reaching Effiong.
Late on, Opubo was called into action on two occasions. The shot-stopper pulled off a magnificent save to deny Effiong who connected brilliantly with Ali’s cross. Few minutes later, the keeper produced another save — this time it was substitute Dare Ojo who hit a volley from distance towards the top. The effort proved too strong for Opubo to handle, but he managed to palm it, and the Rangers defence cleared the rebound before any orange shirt could reach it.
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