Gombe Utd, Rangers serve up thriller to wrap up first round

By Uchenna Iyoke

Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions Rangers International survived the scare of Gombe United to earn a vital point in a six-goal thriller decided at the Pantami Stadium, Gombe on Wednesday.

The rescheduled Matchday 19 which rounded off the first stanza of the league was a fierce contest that produced moments of excitement for the spectators.

The reigning champions took the lead, when midfielder Obinna Nwobodo opened scoring on 12 minutes. He pounced on a delivery from Osas Okoro to finish finely from close range. Nwobodo bagged his brace 13 minutes after restart when he produced a solo effort to hit the ball into back of the net, leaving the host fans in sorrowful mood.

Gombe United rallied back into the game in rapid fashion through Austine Oladapo on 63 minutes. He benefited from a loose ball in goalmouth scramble to restore life in the home crowd. One minute later, the centre referee Ben Odey awarded a penalty to the hosts after a Rangers player handled the ball in his own box. Oladapo stepped up to send goalkeeper Seidu Mutawakilu in the wrong direction and put his team back on level terms.

The tie gathered more momentum as both teams braced up to snatch the three points at stake, launching series of attacks. Idris Bakare and Afolabi Abdulwaheed were the frontrunners for Gombe United as Austine Oladapo's several attempts at goal kept Mutawakilu busy.

The Flying Antelopes on the other hand did not relent, but kept going through Ifeanyi George, Obinna Nwobodo and Osas Okoro. Their counter-attacking moves kept the Savannah Scorpions rear guard busy, creating good scoring chances that almost stole the show for the Coal City side.

Ibrahim Abdullahi put the hosts ahead for the first time two minutes into stoppage time of the second half, after he smashed home a loose ball from inside the Rangers area, but that lead was shortlived as Osas Okoro's screamer three minutes later from 35 yards evened the score at 3-3. Gombe United goalkeeper Emmanuel Fabiyi was found wanting for Okoro's goal which he could only parry into his net.

Obinna Nwobodo was voted man of the match for his outstanding performance that earned him a brace on the evening.

The Flying Antelopes remain in 16th place, one position above the drop zone with better goals difference after amassing 23 points from a possible 57, while Gombe United are fourth from bottom, having garnered 23 points from 19 games.

Both teams square up at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, when the second half of the NPFL season commence from May 21.


Gombe United: Fabiyi Emmanuel 27, Umar Zango 9, Akeem Balogun 18, Isaac Giwa 25, Igho Ogbu 3, Bliya Aliyu 34, Tijjani Adamu 31, Austine Oladapo 26, Mannir Ubale 5, Idris Bakare 8, Afolabi Abdulwaheed 12

SUBS USED: Musa Usman Babalolo 40, Joseph Onoja 13, Ibrahim Abdullahi 4

SUBS NOT USED: Ahmed Yusuf 1, Maurice Chigozie 20, Habib Olawale 19, Sadiq Shuaibu 32

Rangers: Seidu Mutawakilu 33, Osas Okoro 7, Etim Mathew 2, Christian Madu 13, Orji Kalu 22, Chibuzor Madu 12, Bright Silas 17, Godwin Aguda 19, Ifeanyi George 35, Ebuka Okeke 9, Obinna Nwobodo 6

SUBS USED: Morris Chebem 8, Adun Osamudiamen 34

SUBS NOT USED: Bassey Akpan 21, Okey Odita 24, Nnamdi Anyasodo 4, Charles Henlong 1, Ousmane Pape Sane 5

VENUE: Pantami Stadium, Gombe

REFEREE: Benjamin Odey

Photo Gallery : Football Action