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BY: OLATOYE OLAWALE

In-form strikers Ndifreke Effiong and Akarandut Orok continued their impressive form in front of goal with a goal in each half as Akwa United Football Club recorded their third away win of the 2019/2020 NPFL season, with a 1-2 victory over Enugu Rangers on Match-day 20 in Enugu, Sunday.

Ndifreke Effiong put the Promise Keepers ahead with his 9th goal of the season when his header in the 14th minute from David Philip's cross sailed into the top right-hand corner.

Rangers equalised ten minutes after the restart through Kenechukwu Agu whose low drive was tipped against the post by Jean Efala and into the net. But Akarandut Orok secured all three points with a superb finish off an assist from Wisdom Fernando in the 72nd minute to lift his team to 4th on the log with 32 points from 21 games.

The match-day 20 game was a reverse fixture of match-day 19 in which both teams struggled to a goalless draw in Uyo. Akwa United began the game in 6th-placed and on the back of three consecutive draws. They needed to get back to winning ways against Enugu Rangers side who were unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions.

Coach Kennedy Boboye made three changes to the team that drew with Dakkada FC in mid-week. Captain Otobong Effiong made his first start this season. David Philip, Sampson Gbadebo and Dare Ojo were given the nod to start the crucial game in Enugu.

The home side started the game on a positive note and pushed for the curtain raiser but they could not find a way past goalkeeper Jean Efala. The Promise Keepers steadily grew into the game and dominated play against their hosts.

Ubong Friday raced down the right and delivered a brilliant cross into the box, Ndifreke Effiong made contact with the ball first before Rangers goalkeeper Japhet Opubo in an attempt to clear the ball brought down the striker. Akwa United's penalty appeal was turned down as the referee awarded a corner-kick instead.

Morice Chukwu played a short corner-kick to David Philip who delivered a delightful cross into the box. Ndifreke Effiong rose the highest to send a powerful header in to the top right-hand corner of the post to give his team a deserved lead.

Coach Boboye's men drew strength from their opening goal and piled more pressure on Rangers and had a good opportunity to double their advantage but Akarandut Orok after breaking free and beating two of his markers, was unable to direct his final pass to Dare Ojo who was unmarked in a promising position as they went into the break with a deserved 0-1 lead.

Coach Boboye made a like-for-like change early in the second half. Marshal Johnson was sent in to replace Ukeme Williams. But it was Rangers that even the scores ten minutes into the second half through Kenechukwu Agu's long range strike which goalkeeper Jean Efala tipped against the post on it way in.

Wisdom Fernando replaced Ndifreke Effiong with thirty minutes left on the clock and the pacy winger made an instant impact twelve minute after coming on, with his dazzling runs down the left. The winger located Akarandut Orok with a delightful pass and the striker calmly controlled the ball on the edge of Rangers' box and slot it beyond Japhet Opubo to restore his team's lead.

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The home side in an attempt to find the equalizer, poured forward in numbers but their attacking threats were successfully repelled by a well coordinated defense line marshalled by Sampson Gbadebo, Olisa Ndah, Otobong Effiong and David Philip.

Coach Boboye in a tactical switch introduced Wilson Elu in place of Dare Ojo. Elu did well and joined Marshal Johnson and Morice Chukwu to frustrate Rangers efforts in the midfield.

The home said had a good chance to level the scores in the 89th minute but Isaac Loute's goal-bound strike from a free-kick was comfortably saved by Efala.

Akwa United had three clear cut opportunities in injury time to extend their lead, but David Philip, Akarandut Orok and Ubong Friday were unable to bury their chances but they were able to held on for an historic win at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu.

With the result, the Promise Keepers move up to 4th on the log and will next engage Warri Wolves in Uyo on Match-day 21 at the Godswill Akpabio international stadium while Enugu Rangers will entertain Kano Pillars in a reschduled game on Wednesday.


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