Lobi Stars And Enugu Rangers Advance To The Next Round Of CAF Competition
The two Nigerian club sides chasing continental glory in this season’s CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup competition, Lobi Stars of Makurdi and Enugu Rangers progressed to the next round of both the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup with convincing wins in their respective matches.
In the CAF Champions League preliminary round second leg game, reigning Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Champions Lobi Stars of Markudi defeated the hard fighting UMS de Loum of Cameroon 2-0 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu to cancel out the 1-0 defeat from the first leg a fortnight ago.
An early goal by Alimi Sikiru in the 13th minute and a 68th-minute strike by Yaya Kone gave Lobi Stars a comfortable 2-0 victory over UMS de Loum of Cameroon, the stubborn Cameroonian club almost snatched a late goal but their efforts fell short as Lobi held on to advance into the next round.
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Lobi will square up against Kenyan Champions Gor Mahia in the next round of the CAF Champions League. Gor Mahia overcame Big Bullets FC of Malawi 4-3 on penalties as both teams were tied 1-1 on aggregate after their home and away matches.
The first Leg of the encounter against Gor Mahia will take place within December 14-16 in Nairobi, while the second Second will take place within December 21-23 in either Makurdi or Enugu depending on CAF decision.
Rangers international of Enugu also advanced into the next round of the CAF Confederation Cup with relative ease as the reigning AITEO Cup Champions demolished Defence Force S.C of Ethiopia 3-1 in the second leg, preliminary round of CAF Confederation Cup. Rangers had earlier defeated the Ethiopian army team 2-0 in the first leg at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu a fortnight ago.
Dibaba Wendimu gave the Ethiopian team a dream start as he converted an early penalty, the referee spotted a handball incidence in the third minute of the match and Dibaba held his nerve to score the resultant spot kick, sending Rangers shot stopper, Nana Bonsu the wrong way.
The early goal spurred the host as they continued to pile pressure on the Rangers defence in search of more goals as their vociferous fans cheered them on but the duo of Akpos Adubi and Semiu Liadi stood firm in defence and were able to sniff out the opponent’s goal threat.
Gradually Rangers were able to settle into the game and pegged back the host, Rangers almost levelled the scores in the 36th minute when Bright Silas slammed home an inviting cross from Isaac Loute but was unlucky to see the shot miss the target by whiskers.
In the 40th minute, Enugu Rangers were awarded a spot-kick after Godwin Aguda was fouled, Aguda dusted himself up and took the spot kick to bring the match to parity and maintained Enugu Rangers aggregate lead from the first leg.
The Nigerian club side continued to mesmerize their host as Ajani Ibrahim came close to extending the lead with only a few seconds to end the first half but Beyene Yidnekachew did enough to push the ball out to safety.
On resumption of the second half, the host resumed play just the way they did in the first few minutes of the first half with Fikadu Gadissa, Firew Ayele and Dawit Asfaw pulling the strings in the middle of the pack but they could not do much in the final third as Rangers defence stood firm like the rock of Gilbrater.
Rangers coach, Gbenga Ogunbote made a tactical change by bringing in Kelvin Itoya in the 70th minute of the encounter. The change turned out to be a master-stroke as the substitute combined with both Ajani Ibrahim and Bright Silas to cause serious defensive problems for the Ethiopian team. In the 79th minute, a cheeky shot inside the opponent’s vital area by Kelvin Itoya gave Enugu Rangers an unassailable 3-1 lead in the match.
After the match, Rangers Coach, Gbenga Ogunbote said at the post-match conference: “First of all, we thank God for the victory against a good side that loves to keep the ball but failed to do the needful when it mattered.
“Experience gave us the edge knowing that we came here with a two goals lead and conceding very early gave us cause for some concern but we gradually came into the match and got the result we needed.”
Enugu Rangers will now face Algerian club USM Bel Abbès in the next round of the CAF Confederation Cup competition, the Algerian club side defeated LISCR Monrovia of Liberia 4-1 on aggregate to set up the encounter against the seven-time Nigerian League Champions in less than two weeks time. The first leg will be away on 16th December while the second leg takes place on the 23rd December in Enugu.