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Rangers International F.C’s three-match unbeaten run came to a halt, Sunday, inside Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi as a first half stoppage time goal from Abubakar Aliyu made sure that Wikki Tourists F.C denied the visiting ‘Flying Antelopes’ any share of the spoils in a match day 6, Group B, NPFL 2022/2023 abridge season encounter.
The seven-time Nigeria league champions were the second-best in the first stanza that was well dominated by the Bauchi side that created more scoring opportunities but for the brilliance of Emeka Nwabulu who was between the sticks for the Enugu side to deny the host goals.
Nwabulu, however, could do little to stop the gangling Aliyu from getting what turned out to be the match winner as the host turned defense into attack which set him against a hugely exposed Nwabulu to slot home on first half added on time.
Coach Maikaba made three substitutions at the start of the second stanza that saw Chidera Ezeh, Emmanuel Charles and Julius Ikechukwu make way for John Jacob, Innocent Gabriel and Austin Onyemaechi and the tide turned immediately with raids on the backline of the host but goalkeeper, Emeka Onyia was at his best.
The further introduction of Kingsley Maduforo and Chukwuebuka Okorie by the technical bench of Rangers helped in pushing back the host into their defensive shells as two penalty appeals for a handball inside the box and upending goal bound, Austin Onyemaechi by the visitors were waved away by the referee just as goal scorer for the home side almost doubled his goal on 88 minutes when he was allowed much space for a curler that narrowly missed target.
Coach Abdul Maikaba said after the encounter, “Wikki played a fantastic first half and they deserve their goal in that half of the game but, my players woke up from their slumber in the second half and did played well and all could see the clear penalty call which the referee failed to spot. It was a painful loss but we have to go back home and prepare for our next match which is in a week’s time. I believe that the time will be enough for us to prepare well for a convincing win.”
With the loss, Rangers remains 7th on the log after six rounds of matches with five points scoring two goals and leaking five going into match day 7 of the abridged 2022/23 NPFL season.