Defender Ifeanyi Anaemena scored two headers and Jean-Marie Guer scored the third to lead Enyimba to a 3-1 win over Rangers in an Oriental Derby decided at the Enyimba Stadium in Aba on Sunday.
The opening exchanges were befitting of the pre-match hype surrounding this fixture between the top two teams of Group A as both teams utilized the splendour and width of Enyimba’s Rolls Royce of a pitch to entertain the fans with some neat passing moves.
Aguda is Rangers’ top scorer in all competitions this season and he almost provided the fans with the curtain raiser after four minutes but his effort from the edge of the box was deflected over the bar with the corner kick coming to naught.
The hosts, however, went in front with virtually their first real chance of the afternoon in the 14th minute. Oladuntoye picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Guera and from the right wing free kick, Thomas Zenke’s cross met Anaemena unmarked and the defender headed downwards and into Nana Bonsu’s net.
One soon became two four minutes later with Zenke the provider once again. This time, the former Nasarawa United winger broke down the left flank and squared for Guera whose effort was charged down and deflected but squeezed home like a hopping toad in murky waters.
Rangers suddenly found their energy and they almost halved the deficit in the 38th minute but Enyimba goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai expertly tipped Pascal Seka’s header over the bar.
Rangers got their goal in a sweet fashion, Midfielder Chiamaka Madu broke down the right after an intelligent piece of team movement and crossed inside the box where Seka’s dummy took Anaemena out of the way. Aguda arrived from the left to hammer a superb volley into the roof of Afelokhai’s net and bring hope to Rangers.
The goal, as expected brought out the best in the reigning AITEO Cup champions and they went close twice within the following five minutes through Aguda and Madu – the latter’s effort very narrowly went wide with Enyimba fans literally having their hearts in their mouths.
While Rangers now looked likely to score the next goal, Anaemena happened again on the hour mark. The defender headed home at the far post after striker Bashir flicked Stanley Dimgba’s inswinging free-kick to his path.
While Enyimba were hoping to catch some breath after the third goal, Rangers once again reminded them of the quality the opposition possess. Within two minutes of the goal, Rangers had gone close twice. First, Afelokhai once again pulled off a magnificent save to deny Pape Sane’s header to an Aguda corner before Aguda himself headed a Loute cross wide.
The last big opportunity of the game would fall to Rangers five minutes from time but Aguda uncharacteristically blazed his attempt from six yards over the bar after Afelokhai had invitingly dropped a cross to his feet, the goalkeeper looking for a foul which referee Grema Mohammed was rightfully uninterested in.
Enyimba held on for the four minutes of stoppage time to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches and move to within three points of Rangers who stay top of Group A with five matches of the regular season left. Rangers host Kwara United in Enugu on Wednesday while Enyimba will be guests to Rivers United.