The Pride of Benue did not hide their intention of winning the game right from the start of the game and were unlucky not to have scored in the opening minutes when Sikiru Alimi, Ezekiel Mbah and Samad Kadiri were presented with some opportunities to put them in the driver’s seat.
Their patient paid off in the closing seconds of the first half when a long thrust in the vital area of the Flying Antelopes from Lobi Stars goalkeeper, John Lawrence was fumbled by Okey Odita in his attempt to nod the ball to his goalkeeper, Nana Bonsu. Samad Kadiri profited from the melee and fired the loose ball to the bottom right angle of onrushing Bonsu for his team’s only goal of the match.
Lobi Stars’ curtain raiser marked the last action of the first half and the resumption of the second half Enugu Rangers came out smoking with the determination to equalize but they met a brick wall in the combination of Anthony Agbaji and Azu Chile in the centre back of the league reigning champions and the untiring efforts of Alimi and Kadiri to increase their team’s tally.
Coach Gbenga Ogunbote introduced Kelvin Itoya later on in the second half for him to re-enact the spirit of the 2018 Federation Cup final when he sparked their comeback from 3-0 against Kano Pillars to eventually emerge as champions but there was no repeat of that as Lobi Stars headed by coach Solomon Ogbeide ensured that the Flying Antelopes were kept quiet.
The dream of a comeback became evaporated inside the last 15 minutes of the encounter when impressive midfielder, Solomon Okpako was red carded for his second bookable offence after a rash challenge on Lobi Stars player.
Lobi Stars thus finished 2018 as Nigerian champions and they will be approaching their Caf Champions League preliminary round tie with UMS de Loum of Cameroon next week in Yaounde with confidence that they can win it and seal a spot in the first round.
Rangers, on the other hand, must buckle up ahead of their Caf Confederation Cup preliminary round fixture against Defence Force of Ethiopia whom they host first in Enugu on Tuesday next week.