There have been a few oriental derbies in the 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League [NPFL] season, fewer than it used to be in previous seasons and this is solely down to the abridged format of the league this season. On Sunday, 5th May, 2019, Enyimba FC will host Enugu Rangers FC in Aba for the first time since the renovation of the Aba stadium and it will be the biggest fixture in the regular season this year. Here is why:
There are a total of 14 League titles between these two sides with both the hosts, Enyimba FC and their visitors having a fair share of seven apiece. Enugu Rangers have won the recent of them after they dug deep to hold on for a seventh title four seasons ago to break a 30+ trophyless run. Enyimba on the other hand have faltered on their part to reclaim the league title but have always been in the mix consistently. There is definitely a point to prove to each other on Sunday.
This season, Enugu Rangers have shown that their dramatic cup winning run last season was not a fluke after they exorcised their inner demons to shoot up to the summit of group A and opened up a huge six point gap between them and second placed Enyimba FC, who will be hosting them this weekend with the sole aim of closing up the gap by three points as teams race into the business end of the season for qualifications spots for the Super Six tournament which will decide the outright winners.
While there may not be much bad blood between these two sides, Enyimba’s last trips to Enugu have borne the same results, two 1-0 defeats in the hands of their hosts and the last time they hosted their visitors, it ended 2-1 in their favour but the venue was Calabar when their Aba ground was still under renovation. That match in Calabar had Rangers head coach, Olugbenga Ogunbote, in charge of Enyimba then. The Aba Elephants will be looking to avenge their back to back loses in Enugu while their visitors, The Flying Antelopes, will want to wrestle their hosts to the ground and put space between them on the log.
These two sides boast of the longest unbeaten runs in the league this season, with the visitors who are on a two game losing streak having the longest, a 13 match run, while their hosts this weekend have their own 11 match unbeaten run still running and will look to make it 12 and possibly get past Enugu Rangers’ threshold of 13. Getting past this number will also be an inspiring factor for the visitors, who will likely halt their opponents’ run in a bid to keep their record. That aside, it will be a game between the hottest attack in the league against the tightest defense as the flurry of goals produced by the likes of Bright Silas, Godwin Aguda, Michael Uchebo and co will test the water tight resilience shown by the Enyimba backline that has an experienced Ifeanyi Anaemena and the impressive Stephen Manyo and any of Fatau Dauda or Theophilus Afelokhai, in goal. Enyimba have conceeded just one goal at home this season.
Typical of derbies, Enyimba vs Enugu Rangers promises to be one in which pride is at stake. No Nigerian based club have beaten Enyimba in a competitive match at the Aba stadium since it was reopened and while Enyimba will want to keep that record running, Enugu Rangers will be eyeing such a feat to give them bragging rights over their cross state neighbours. Fans of both clubs who are in constant arguments on which is the more successful of the two clubs will be hoping that this match helps them prove their dominance over the other and will be on ground to make the match as electrifying as possible.
It is a match that promises everything you can wish for plus much more. A must watch and very importantly, a good advert for the NPFL judging from the talents on display.
Enyimba have 25 points from 16 matches and are second behind Enugu Rangers who have amassed 31 points from 16 matches to lead group A of the 2018/2019 NPFL table. The top three teams will face each other in a Super Six tournament to decide the outright winner of season.