Outgoing Nigeria Professional Football League champions Enugu Rangers eased their relegation worries with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Sunshine Stars at the Cathedral on Sunday.
Rangers were without arguably three of their best performers in the league this term Osas Okoro, Orji Kalu and in-form attacker Ifeanyi George for Sunday’s narrow win and it took a first half penalty by defender Chibuzor Madu to earn them the full marks.
Rangers Technical Adviser Sylvanus Okpalla was relieved to see his side take the maximum points despite a difficult test from their opponents.
“The most important thing is that we got the three points. The boys tried their best and our opponents also also did well. But it was important that we got the points,” Okpalla, an AFCON winner in 1980 said.
After filtering away a number of chances to kill off the game in the second half, it was almost another case of déjà vu for the Flying Antelopes when Joseph Abiodun looked to have rescued a point for Sunshine Stars in the 89th minute. The effort was however chalked off to the chagrin of Sunshine coach, Duke Udi. Okpalla however agrees with the referee’s call.
“I must emphasize that the player was offside. The linesman had already raised his flag only that the referee didn’t look his side. You can go and check the videos, you will see it.”
Quicksilver, as Okpalla was fondly called during his playing days was also quick to lament the team’s injury crisis and the absence of his three players due to national team engagements.
“When you remove Ronaldo from Real Madrid or you remove Messi, Suarez and Neymar from Barça when they were there, you can imagine what the team would be like. So we are missing them. They are important players with this team.
“We have a problem in the team. At a point in time, we had only 14 players to play with. Injuries, some of them left and by the time I joined this team, three players left that same week. We will continue to work with what we have but that is what the team is facing.”
Rangers, by the virtue of Sunday’s victory move up to 13th on the log with 46 points, three clear of the relegation zone with four games left to play in the 2016/17 season.