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Enyimba’s tough experience against Ijebu United was our wake-up call, Rangers say

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Abdul Maikaba, Technical Adviser of Rangers International Football Club, says his team’s victory in the Round of 64 of the 2022 Aiteo Federation Cup competition was inspired by Enyimba International.

Our correspondent reports that six-time champions Rangers International thrashed Bauchi-based lower league side A.B.J. (Auwalu Baba Jada) FC 4-1 on Sunday in Abuja.

The Enugu-based side won a one-sided encounter at the FIFA Goal Project pitch.

Three first-half goals and another in the second-half sandwiched what turned out to be a consolation goal as Rangers strolled into the competition’s Round of 32 with ease.

Shedrack Asiegbu slotted home the curtain raiser in the 11th minute when he met Ossy Martins’ inch-perfect cross.

Chidiebere Nwobodo increased the tally just three minutes later when he was set up on goal by Ejike Uzoenyi.

In the 24th minute, Republic of Benin International Charles Tiesso leapt the highest to nod home a Samuel Pam’s well-taken corner-kick.

As stunned as the Bauchi state representatives were, they grew in confidence as the game crept past the half-hour mark and were rewarded in the 38th minute.

This was when Aminu Yusuf fired past Seidu Mutawakilu from the edge of the penalty box after being left with too much space.

It happened few minutes after the Rangers goalkeeper had stopped a penalty kick taken by Nazeef Shuaibu.

The “Flying Antelopes” started the second half as they did the first as they piled on the pressure, making several incursions into the vital area of their opponents.

But an improved goalkeeping from Anas Hassan for the Bauchi state side ensured that most of the opportunities created by the Enugu-based side did not rest inside the net.

His efforts could however not do much to stop substitute Julius Ikechukwu’s effort in the 87th minute which killed off any further resistance.

Maikaba later told our correspondent he was delighted with his team’s outstanding victory, adding that Enyimba’s difficult experience against Ijebu United a day earlier was a wake-up call for his team.

It was reported that the Aba-based Enyimba on Saturday in Benin beat Ijebu United FC, a Nigeria National League (NNL) side, 3-1 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 ending.

The former champions had goalkeeper Olorunleke Ojo to thank for qualifying for the next stage of the 2022 Aiteo Federation Cup competition, after saving three penalty kicks.

Maikaba who led Akwa United to their 2017 Aiteo Cup triumph said: “It was a very interesting game and the game and the difficult experience faced by Enyimba made our players to be more serious about this game.

“If a team like Ijebu United could hold Enyimba to a draw for 90 minutes, it simply means that they are no easy opponents as far as the Cup competition is concerned.

“So, I kept drumming the message of not being complacent into the ears of my players and I am glad they listened and that was why we approached the first half with so much urgency.

“We made sure we got our result as early as possible and I am happy our game plan went just the way we wanted it to be.

“At the end, scoring as much as four goals is a morale-booster for us because a team that scores a lot of goals usually go far in Cup competitions,” he said.

On the team’s target in the competition, Maikaba said his team were aiming to go all the way to the final to compensate for their league disappointment.

“We lost to Bayelsa United in the Round of 64 last time out and so we didn’t want that to repeat itself.

“After our unsuccessful push for a continental ticket in the just-concluded Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season, we are condemned to give our best in the Aiteo Cup.

“We will give our best, but the most important thing is that we will approach each game as it comes one after the other.

“The Federation Cup is a competition full of surprises, but I strongly believe that we will be in the final after five games.

“I am confident that if complacency does not rear its ugly head, we shall have something to celebrate at the end of the competition.”

Maikaba added that the team was well motivated for the task ahead.

”The club’s management has done all in its powers to ensure that some outstanding match bonuses were released to the team as a further push to become champions again.”

Our correspondent reports that Rangers last won the oldest club competition in the country in 2018.

Speaking also on his team’s performance, Bashair Muhammad, the coach of A.B.J. FC, a Nationwide League One (NLO) side, expressed mixed feelings about the game’s result.

He said even though he was sad that his team were knocked out of the competition, he was happy that his boys gave a good account of themselves.

“I am not feeling too bad because my boys played their heart out and left everything on the pitch today.

“We knew what we were up against coming into the game, but we didn’t let that weigh us down in any way.

“Facing a football giant like Rangers International wasn’t going to be easy, but I am happy that we were able to at least score a goal at the end of the day,” he said

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Victor Okoye

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