Despite playing a majority of the second half with a man short, Lobi Stars beat Rangers 1-0 in Makurdi to boost hopes of securing one of the three playoff tickets in Group A.
The game involving the country’s two continental representatives was the star match of the week.
The hosts laid siege on the visitors who had difficulties pushing forward.
From the 1st minute when Sikiru Alimi’s header off John Lazarus’s cross hit the woodwork, Lobi made their intentions known.
A combination of needless fouls around their box and injuries put the game way beyond the visitors.
As early as the eighth minute, Ifeanyi George was forced out by injury and was replaced by Ajani Ibrahim.
Meanwhile, the first of many free-kicks within Rangers territory came in the 11th minute with Solomon Kwambe scaring the birds at the arena from the set-piece.
Kwambe was presented with another opportunity in the 20th minute but this time his effort stang keeper Japhet Opubo’s palms.
Lobi’s next free-kick came in the 25th minute. Samuel Mathias’s canon was spilled by Opubo who managed to gather on a second attempt just before Alimi could pounce.
The next free-kick was in the 31st minute, from about 20 yards. Atakho Aghahowa assumed responsibility this time and his effort wasn’t too far away.
Rangers was forced into another change in the 33rd minute as Ifeanyi Egwim came on for Seka Pascal who had been stretchered off clutching his hamstring.
Egwim was booked in the 45th minute for needlessly clattering into Timothy Atamevwan right on the edge of the box.
This time, Kwambe curled in what turned out the match winner.
Rangers had been punished for careless tackles around their box. Whoever thought they would change their ways in the second half was in for more shock.
Three minutes after restart, Pape Ousmane fouled Samad Kadiri in a vantage position. They were left off the hook, by Lobi’s poor execution of the kick.
In the 57th minute, Lobi’s Ezekiel Mbah cut inside Tope Olusesi but his effort just scratched the side net.
The Flying Antelopes were all over the place and needed to get a grip on proceedings.
They seemed to have gotten a lifeline when Lobi midfielder Ezekiel Otudigha bagged a straight red for stamping on Solomon Okpako.
Ironically, Lobi was still the stronger team after going a man down as Rangers failed to take advantage of the numerical edge.
The hosts always looked the likeliest to score with Rangers’ incessant fouling of oppositions in their territory not abating.
In the 73rd minute, Isiaka Oladuntoye fouled a harmless Alimi just around the arch of the box. It was an indirect kick and the routine executed by Mathias and Kwambe saw the latter hit the wall.
Two minutes later, Ousmane escaped a second yellow card for a rough challenge on Kadiri. Kwambe got it on target but it was easy pick for Opubo.
Even with the numerical deficit, Lobi got two late opportunities to grab a second but substitute Tiza Iorwuese wasted them.
In the 85th minute, Alimi put the ball on a plate for Iorwuese, who just needed a touch to guide it in, but failed to make contact.
Four minutes later, Mathias teed-up Iorwuese but with the keeper at his mercy, he missed target.
Ultimately, the visitors had Iorwuese to thank for keeping the scoreline minimal.
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