By Olawale Alabi
After a 32 year drought, Rangers International FC today won the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League title, whipping visiting El-Kanemi Warriors 4-0.
Celebration was however subdued as substitute Ifeanyi Egwim suffered a serious leg injury.
Egwim who replaced Ocheme Edoh in the 83rd minute was bearing down on goal in the 88th minute after a pass down the flank had split the visiting side’s defence line open.
Goalkeeper Yekeen Kazeem, who was by now open and defenceless, advanced on him for a charge which fell the towering forward.
As referee Ferdinand Udoh pointed at the penalty spot and handed the goalkeeper a red card, Egwim’s two teammates who ran towards him to lift him started crying.
Other players who ran to the spot just inside the El-Kanemi Warriors box could not bear the spectacle, with many turning away and placing their hands on their heads.
Even referee Udoh could not bear to look further, and his gestures thereafter showed the extent of the injury.
Medical personnel quickly called for the ambulance which took Egwim, who look to have been injured just below the knee, away for further treatment.
The mood was further expressed minutes later when Chisom Egbuchulam scored the resultant penalty kick in the 90th minute for the match’s fourth goal and to complete his hat-trick.
He refused to jubilate the goal, even after some teammates rushed to him, lifting his shirt to his face and bending double to weep.
It was a sad end to a day which had looked promising for Rangers from the game’s opening minute when they started to dominate the game.
Bobby Clement’s shot was handled by Abraham Audu for a second minute penalty kick which Egbuchulam expertly scored for the game’s first goal.
The Maiduguri-based Warriors seemed not ready to spoil the much-awaited party at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, and it showed in their fightback.
They looked laid-back, even though Rangers were on fire and looking capable of scoring many goals.
Obinna Nwobodo could have extended the lead in the 29th minute with his shot from about 28 metres out, but goalkeeper Kazeem’s acrobatic response prevented that.
The fluidity of the hosts’ offensive play was a beauty, and it yielded further result in the 40th minute when Osas Okoro finished off a good move from the right flank.
Egbuchulam scored his second and the game’s third in the 64th minute, before the 90th minute penalty kick which gave him his hat-trick and took his league season tally to 16.
The victory took Rangers to 63 points from 38 matches, three ahead of challengers Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt who were 2-1 winners over Akwa United in Uyo.
Rangers have now equalled Enyimba International’s seven-title record achieved in the 2014/2015 season.