SPORTS FLAKES: RANGERS RELIVE ISTANBUL IN ASABA

SPORTS FLAKES: RANGERS RELIVE ISTANBUL IN ASABA

It happened in Istanbul in 2005, Asaba saw something similar on Wednesday October 24, 2018. Scoring three goals without any response from the opposition in 75 minutes does not always guarantee cup victory in soccer. Liverpool showed it, Rangers International confirmed it.

Liverpool rose from the dead in the European Champion’s League grand finale just 15 minutes to the end. AC Milan did not allow the Reds to settle down before going into the lead in the very first minute. Two more goals before the end of the first stanza made things look so easy for the Italian team.

Then what appeared like a miracle happened. As from the 75th minute, Liverpool got three quick goals in five minutes to draw level at 3-3. After extra time, there were no winners. Both teams went into penalty kicks and at the end, the English club ran away with 3-2 victory.

Rangers love the red colour but at birth in 1970 they were wore white like heavenly Angels. In Asaba during the AIETEO Cup grand finale against Kano Pillars, the Flying Antelopes wore their traditional white tinged with red. Many did not realize it was going to be a red letter day.

In five minutes, the Northerners were one goal ahead through their captain, Rabiu Ali. Ten minutes later, Ibrahim Alhassan increased the tally. With two goals in the first half, Pillars made a mess of Rangers goalie, Femi Thomas, with a third goal in the 48th. That sounded like a requiem.

Rangers rose through difficulties to the height, that’s their motto. Kelvin Itoya woke everyone up with a blistering goal in the 77th minute. Chidera Eze made it 3-2 in the 82nd and just when Pillars thought it was all over, Ajani Ibrahim struck the equalizer two minutes into over time.

Then came penalties. Rangers had withdrawn Keeper Thomas after he let in the third goal. His replacement, the Ghanaian, Nana Bonsu, was outstanding and saved Pillars fourth kick. Beninois import, Isaac Loute, gave Rangers the much desired boost when he scored to end it 4-2 in favour of the Coal City Boys.

Perhaps, the crowd did not think of the Delta Force behind Rangers victory. The comeback goal was scored by Itoya, a Delta boy. Captain of the winning side, Okechukwu Odita, is from Delta State. His elder brother, Chukwudi, also captained Rangers in the past.

The Asaba Stadium is named after Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, name sake of the Rangers captain. The General Manager of the Flying Antelopes, Davidson Owumi, is from Delta State. He is also Chairman of Rangers Old Players Association. Fans know him as ‘Okada Air’..

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The Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was at the stadium to cheer his boys.Delta governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, is his name sake and also watched the game. A case of two governors, two Ifeanyis. And the full meaning of that name is: ‘With God, all things are possible’.

The first Delta player to win the cup with Rangers was Johnny Azinge, 1975. In 1977, another Delta star, Godwin Gbenimacho, lifted the Africa Winners Cup with the team.

Pillars won the Cup for the first time 65 years ago, in 1953. And that remains their only cup victory. They lost in the final in 1977 as Raccah Rovers. They also lost in 1991.

Rangers had won five times previously: 1974, 1975, 1976, 1981 and 1983. That means before this triumph they waited for 35 years. The Flying Antelopes were finalists six times: 1971, 1978, 1990, 2000, 2004 and 2007. The import is that Rangers have played in the grand finale 12 times, winning six times.

October 24, is not the best of dates for Rangers. On this date in 1975, they were humiliated 3-1 by Mehalla of Egypt in a CAF Champions League semi finals first leg match. That was also the day,Emma Okala, was substituted for Felix Azuokwu. In the return leg in Enugu, the Nigerians won 3-0 to qualify for the finals on 4-3 aggregate.

On October 24, 1982, another Egyptian side, Al Ahly, came to Lagos for another CAF Champions League semi finals. Rangers managed a slim1-0 win. In the second leg, it was a disaster. The Egyptians won 4-0 forcing legendary keeper, Okala, into retirement.

The first time Rangers conceded three goals in the Challenge Cup grand finale, they could not recover. Bendel Insurance, made sure of that. A brace from Henry Ogboe and one goal by Peter Egharevba was more than a shocker. Many did not realize that Insurance coach, Alabi Aisien, was actually poached from city rivals, Vasco Da Gama. And two of his players, Agwo Nnaji and Francis Monidafe moved from Asaba Textile Mills.

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