Enyimba’s hopes of returning to winning path in the NPFL was thwarted by two second half penalties in a rescheduled matchday 19 fixture against Rangers Intentional at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium on Sunday evening.
The People’s Elephant were unable to get any reward for a sturdy display against their eastern rivals as Christian Nnaji and Elijah Ani converted from the spot to seal a 2-0 win for the Flying Antelopes.
After stressing on the need for some of his regulars to be given a rest earlier in the week, Fatai Osho picked an entirely different starting lineup from the side that drew 2-2 against FC Ifeanyi Uba four days earlier.
Somiari Alalibo was handed his debut at centreback, likewise midseason acquisition, Bilal Yakubu; while Sabirou Bassa Djeri, Stephen Manyo and Hassan Abubakar returned to the lineup.
Despite not seeing much of the ball in the early exchange, the visitors made the first break when Reuben Bala picked Orok Gabriel’s run, but the latter hurriedly fired over.
Samad Kadiri also came close from close range following a beautiful team move involving Imo Obot and Bala, before Bassa, at the other end, was forced to save Chinonso Eziekwe’s drive with his foot.
The hosts shot themselves into the lead nine minutes into the restart when Christian Nnaji converted a penalty after Alalibo had been adjudged to have handled the ball in the area.
Tosin Omoyele and Anayo Iwuala were introduced and the pair contributed meaningfully as Enyimba pushed to restore parity. Impressive leftback, Imo Obot missed a chance to draw level when he fired over after Rangers failed to deal with Bilal’s cross, before his ball was stopped by the keeper after a sweet cut in from the left.
Iwuala saw his ball come off the crossbar in the closing stages, but any hope of drawing level was thwarted at the death when Elijah Ani drilled home from the spot after the hosts were awarded another penalty.