— Opta Nigeria (@OptaNGR) July 31, 2016
The Oriental derby between Enyimba International FC and Rangers International was one of the most anticipated matches of Matchday 29 (it was actually the other anticipated derby of the Matchday). Here’s why:
– Enyimba were trying to return to winning ways after losing to Plateau United the week before. They didn’t have a leaky defence to worry about like their opponents but they obviously wanted to make sure their NPFL run did not resemble their current CAF Champions League campaign.
– Rangers on the other hand, were looking to go one ahead of Wikki Tourists to top the NPFL table. This alone was motivation enough for them. After going their last 5 games unbeaten, Coach Imma’s side were beginning to look like title contenders. And the only team standing in their way was the one from Bauchi (save, of course, a surprise from Rivers United).
– It was an ORIENTAL DERBY.
So, all seemed set for a massive clash, the delight of football fans.
But what really happened?
2 of the biggest teams on display in Port Harcourt Enyimba vs Rangers & the stadium isn't even half full. To think the Euro league's not on
— Nwa ndi be Anazodo. (@chaplinez70) July 31, 2016
1. There Was A Half-Filled (or Half-Empty?) Stadium
For a NPFL fan who’s trying to “fall in love” with the league and watch, at any available chance, the league games, this is some sort of painful point to start with. But it was very hard to miss the empty seats that were glaring at me as I watched Moses Praiz (one of the Matchday analysts) welcome me to the Yakubu Gowon Stadium.
It was too obvious! And I was constantly wondering why the stadium wasn’t filled with fans. “Don’t people want to know how this mouth-watering clash will play out?,” I thought to myself.
Of course the hardcore fans showed up. The mums and dads came along with their kids to see the action. The male and female species were duly represented. But I expected more, given what was at stake. I think I want to blame my disappointment on “over-expectation.”
In the end, I gave up wondering about the number of spectators present (and the ones absent) when the match commentator said,
“We’ve seen today, nearly 3 times the amount of crowd that usually come to watch Rivers United play.”
Translated: This crowd is actually a “huge” crowd when compared to the ones that usually show up when the home team plays. #Shock.
2. Rangers International’s Poor Defence Reared It’s Ugly Head Again
Before this game started, Rangers were second on the NPFL log-table. Not because Wikki Tourists had won more games. But because their goals difference was inferior to Wikki’s, a direct result of conceding more goals than Wikki Tourists.
And their coach, Imma Amapakabo, in a pre-match interview, seemed to not have any issues with his team’s defensive frailties. But this same weakness almost cost them the top spot they currently occupy.
Enyimba piled the pressure early in the first half, trying to utilize this weakness to their own advantage. And most times, it alnost worked with Enyimba players getting half-chances that came about thanks to poor defending by the Rangers players.
Wondering how Enyimba scored their goal? Yes, you’re right! And that poor defending almost made them leave Port Harcourt empty-handed.
— Akinsanya Abass (@Abassinpa) July 31, 2016
3. Some Weird Officiating + Drama
I’m still unsure what really happened at end of the first half but the centre referee and one of the Enyimba players got involved in an exchange of words (note: it wasn’t the nicest of exchanges as there was pointing of fingers and the images of glaring eyes).
— Nwa afo Igbo™ 💎 (@Itsagbo) July 31, 2016
Enyimba had scored in the 45th minute of the game. And that lead had only lasted 90 seconds. And a certain Enyimba player wasn’t happy. What he was dissatisfied with is still unclear but I’m sure he’d have exchanged more than words with the ref if he wasn’t restrained by his teammates. Yes, it was that serious!
Don't knw what d Enyimba players r angry abt….1-1 half-time #ENYRAN
— dare noiki (@dreynoiks) July 31, 2016
Of course there was that OMG!-I-thought-we-were-leading-a-few-seconds-ago kind of moment. Two goals were scored, either sides of the pitch… in the space of 90 seconds! I guess whoever said, “You’re most vulnerable after scoring a goal,” must have had this match in mind.
Have I mentioned the awkward officiating by the referee? The ladies who were the linesmen (or lineswomen?) did well. But the centre ref kept making calls that disrupted the flow of the game, calls that were sometimes, not totally necessary. But what do I know? Maybe I’m wrong. Afterall I’m only a NPFL fan.
Obinna Nwobodo of Rangers is a rare gem. His mesmerizing skills was one of the highlight of the game. He took one anyone in sight and usually did a good job in the end. Hopefully the league doesn’t lose this one to Greece or Finland. Hopefully.
— Rotimi David (Papi) (@Rotdav) July 31, 2016
I used to think Bobby Clement was badass but after he disappeared in today’s game, I’m definitely having a rethink. In fairness, the Enyimba fans were so brutal. They seemed to be in a no-mercy, kill-em-all mode. But even when these gruesome defenders loosened their grip on Clement, he seemed to have become absent, though present, at this game.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned the scoreline of this game. But you know that already right?
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Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn