Lobi Stars edge past Rangers to lift Super Cup in Asaba

By Fisayo Dairo

Striker Samad Kadiri’s first half stoppage time goal gave CAF Champions League representatives Lobi Stars a 1-0 win over 10-man Rangers in an impulsive 2018/19 Super Cup match decided at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba on Tuesday night.

Kadiri showed a high level sense of alertness before neatly converting from just inside the box after a mix-up in the Rangers defence. The striker, one of Lobi’s key contributors last term was even unlucky not to have added to his solitary goal as he tormented the Rangers back line all through the game.

AITEO Cup champions, Rangers were a good opposition on the night but their cause was later exacerbated by the dismissal of midfielder Solomon Okpako for a second bootable offence nine minutes from time as the Flying Antelopes lost for a fourth time in a row in all competitions to the Pride of Benue.

Heads of the technical crew of both sides Solomon Ogbeide (Lobi Stars) and Gbenga Ogunbote (Sunshine Stars) used Tuesday’s game as an avenue to put their players in shape ahead of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) inter-club participation which starts as early as next week and were allowed to use as much as seventeen players each in the game.

Lobi handed starts to new signings Sikiru Alimi (Sunshine), Alex Aghahowa (El-Kanemi), Chile Azu (Go Round) and Samuel Mathias (El-Kanemi) while the biggest name on the pitch was one of Rangers’ new recruits, Michael Uchebo – a 2014 World Cup star who just rejoined his former club after a couple of years unattached.

Uchebo was not the only new face in the starting lineup for Rangers; there were also former Bendel Insurance star Akpos Adubi who paired the ageless Okey Odita in defence while former FC Ifeanyiubah forward Pascal Seka started just off Uchebo in the attack.

After an initial huffing and puffing by both sides, it was Seka who almost scored the game’s opening goal on the quarter hour mark. The Ivorian deftly turned while controlling an Ifeanyi George cross before hitting a half volley with his weaker right foot which unluckily came off Lobi’s right hand post.

Uchebo was eager to make his class tell on the game and made life difficult for the Lobi Stars defence with his pace and grit while at the other end, Kadiri and his fellow former Sunshine Star, Alimi occupied the Rangers defence as the game gradually opened up midway through the half.

The game’s only goal would however come with virtually the last kick of the half. Lobi goalkeeper John Lawrence’s long clearance was headed backwards by Rangers defender Odita, in an attempt to find his goalkeeper Nana Bonsu but the smart Kadiri latched onto the undercooked header and finished with aplomb from just inside the box.

Lobi’s stoppage time goal turned the second half to a livelier contest and Ogbeide’s men almost doubled their advantage seconds after the restart. A well worked move involving Alimi and Kadiri created space for winger Ezekiel Mba but his effort was well saved by Bonsu.

In the 50th minute, Rangers perhaps should have capitalised on an error on Lobi’s part but Seka hurriedly blazed his effort over from about 35 yards after an indiscreet attempt by goalkeeper Lawrence to clear danger outside his box was improperly executed.

The game soon turned to an end to stuff after the hour mark. Rangers worked out a good chance at their right flank; full back Tope Olusesi found Chiamaka Madu with a reverse pass and the former Sharks player crossed to the far post from where Ifeanyi George headed wide.

Lobi Stars who troubled Rangers all night with Chile Azu’s long throws and Solomon Kwambe’s corner kicks also replied with a header by Anthony Agabji who rose highest to meet a Kwambe corner. His effort was however cleared on the goal line by Isaac Loute.

Ogunbote then sent on the returning Bobby Clement and the actors of their AITEO Cup comeback Kelvin Itoya and Ajani Ibrahim. The former added more juice to Rangers’ already drained attack with his pace and almost created a chance in the 77th minute after a brilliant solo run but Azu cleared his low cross into the box.

While Rangers’ hope of getting another dramatic equaliser heightened, unfortunately for them, their midfielder Okpako had other ideas. The former Kano Pillars and Enyimba star was sent off for his second booking after upending Alimi from behind in the 81st minute, a rather needless act of cynicism.

Their opponents almost capitalise immediately when Kadiri squared into the box for substitute Yaya Kone but the Ivorian who was in a world of his own blazed his follow-up over after his initial attempt was saved by goalkeeper Bonsu.

There was still another chance for Lobi to score again in stoppage time but this time, Kadiri’s difficult header to a good cross by Kwambe missed the post by the whiskers. Lobi Stars held on for the morale boosting win which comes after an unconvincing display at the Gold Cup tournament last week.

Both teams will now ride on the back of this competitive fixture into their continental engagements starting next week. Lobi Stars travel to Cameroon to face UMS de Loum in the Champions League while Rangers will be in Enugu to face Ethiopian side Defence Force.

TEAMS

Lobi Stars: 16. John Lawrence 18. Solomon Kwambe 3. Ebube Duru 19. Aghahowa Otakho 5. Anthony Agbaji 6. Chile Azu 8. Cletus Itodo 14. Samad Kadri 20. Sikiru Alimi (Nojeem Olukokun 84′) 22. Mathias Samuel (Kelly Kester 45′) 12. Ezekiel Mba (Yaya Kone 73′)

Unused subs: 35. Ospino Egbe 2. Lazarus John 21. Bahyere Sanni 4. Umar Zango 13. Salifor Fawaze 10. David Tyavkase

BOOKED: Cletus Itodo 13′ Kelly Kester 62′

GOAL: Samad Kadiri 45′

Rangers: 25. Nana Bonsu 20. Tope Olusesi 31. Isaac Loute 4. Okey Odita 18. Akpos Adubi 17. Bright Silas (Ajani Ibrahim 78′) 26. Seka Pascal (Bobby Clement 58′) 30. Chiamaka Madu (Godwin Aguda 86′) 35. Ifeanyi George (Kelvin Itoya 72′) 22. Solomon Okpako 9. Michael Uchebo

Unused subs: 16. Femi Thomas 14. Felix Ogbuke 11. Chidera Ezeh 40. Ugwuoke Ugochukwu 12. Chibuzor Madu 27. Ajani Ibrahim

BOOKED: Okey Odita 18, Solomon Okpako 53′ 81′

DISMISSAL: Solomon Okpako 81′

Referee: Basheer Salisu