Lobi reach Champions League group stage, as Rangers eye USMBA scalp

By George Akpayen

Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side Lobi Stars progressed into the CAF Champions League group stage on Saturday after defeating Kenyan club Gor Mahia via away goal rule.

Gor took a 3-1 advantage with them to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu which Lobi now play their continental matches but the NPFL outfit left it late to cancel out the lead of the Kenyan side.

Sikiru Alimi who was unavailable for the first meeting in Nairobi seven days ago was the hero of the day. He scored twice to peg back the plucky Kenyan side. His first goal came on 79 minutes before he got his brace two before time.

It is the first time in 18 years since Lobi Stars played in the group phase of Africa’s premier club competition. Lobi however failed to progress beyond the group stage in 2000 finishing third behind eventual champions Hearts of Oak and Al Ahly while Senegal’s Jeanne d’Arc propped the rear.

RANGERS CLOSE IN ON PLAYOFF PHASE

Seven-time NPFL winners Rangers International would hope to replicate Lobi’s performance on the same turf this Sunday when they play hosts to Algerian side USM Bel Abbes in the CAF Confederation Cup.

Rangers earned themselves a 0-0 draw a week ago in Sidi Bel Abbes.

A win of any kind will see the Flying Antelopes go through to the playoff where they will face one of the clubs that got knocked out at the first round of the CAF Champions League.

Gbenga Ogunbote has so far guided Rangers to an unbeaten start in three matches in the Confederation Cup after winning over two legs against Ethiopia’s Defence Force SC in the preliminary round.

USM Bel Abbes on the other hand have suffered a defeat in three of their games, losing away to Liberian side LISCR in the preliminary round by a solitary goal.

The Flying Antelopes have already named their matchday squad which includes super-sub Kelvin Itoya, Ifeanyi George, Isaac Loute, Tope Olusesi, Okey Odita as well as goalkeepers Nana Bonsu and Femi Thomas among others.

FROM RANGERS

Nana Bonsu, Femi Thomas, Tope Olusesi, Isaac Loute, Ugonna Uzochukwu, Akpos Adubi, Semiu Liadi, Bright Silas, Chiamaka Madu, Ajani Ibrahim, Godwin Aguda, Godwin Zaki, Ugochukwu Ugwuoke, Pape Ousmane Sane, Solomon Okpako, Kelvin Itoya, Ifeanyi George, Okey Odita and Onyedika Ogbuke