Enyimba have extended their unbeaten run to 11 games in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) after they beat Enugu Rangers 3-1 in their Matchday 17 fixture at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba on Sunday.
Ifeanyi Anaemena scored two goals while Jean-Marie Guera added one to help the People’s Elephant romp to a well-deserved victory over the Flying Antelopes in the Oriental Derby.
Both mangers made changes to their team, with the Enyimba coach Usman Abd’Allah bringing in five players that did not start in the last outing in Markurdi against Lobi Stars.
Jospeh Osadiaye received an injury in the game against the Pride of Benue, so he was relegated to the bench while the duo of Nasiru Sani and Andrew Abalogu, who suffered a similar fate, were fit enough for starting roles.
Stanley Dimgba was also back in the Enyimba starting line-up while Jean-Marie Guera was given his first league start with the People’s Elephant and he did not disappoint by getting on the scoresheet in the derby.
For Rangers, after back-to-back losses to Bendel Insurance and Rivers United coupled with the injury crisis rocking his team, coach Gbenga Ogunbote also tweaked his team for the Oriental Derby.
Seka Pascal won his red card appeal and was back for the Flying Antelopes and the return of the Ivorian was a big boost for the visitors.
It was the home team that got the game underway but the visitors had the first go at goal when a volley by Godwin Aguda was deflected over by Nelson Ogbonnaya.
Theophilus Afelokhai, who started in goal for Enyimba, made an easy catch from the resultant corner kick.
The People’s Elephant soon seized control and they went in front in the 15th minute when an unmarked Ifeanyi Anaemena headed home a well-delivered freekick from Thomas Zenke.
It took only four minutes for coach Abd’Allah’s men to double their lead and it was Zenke who provided another assist this time for Guera who was making his first ever league start.
Guera's effort took a wicked deflection and went in beyond Nana Bonsu who was left helpless.
The chances were coming thick and fast for Enyimba and they could have received a third just before the half-hour mark but Bashir Abdulrahaman couldn't put the ball on target despite being well-placed.
It wasn’t all Enyimba all the way as Rangers did muster a fightback but the likes of Seka and Aguda were both denied by the superb display by Afelokhai.
While the first half ended 2-0 in favour of the hosts, Rangers were more determined in the second half and just four minutes after the restart they pulled one back through Aguda in spectacular fashion.
Chiamaka Madu crossed the ball from the right, Seka Pascal sold a dummy for Anaemena, allowing Aguda to arrow home a volley into the roof from 16 yards.
The goal by Aguda gave Rangers more life as they pushed hard for an equalizer but Enyimba got their third against the play.
It was centre-back Anaemena who nodded home to restore Enyimba’s two-goal cushion.
Despite the derby defeat, Enugu Rangers are still top of the NPFL Group A with 31 points from 17 games, while Enyimba are now close behind in second with just three points less.