Playing before a packed crowd at the 25,000-capacity Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium against Algerian side, Jeunesse Sportive de la Saoura, the ‘Flying Antelopes’ as Rangers are fondly called did all they should do to earn a win on the day but Djemili Henouti in goal for the visitors was the main reason the match ended barren pulling superb saves to help his team exit the competition honourably on away goals rule after both teams ended their first encounter 1-1 last week in Algeria.
On resumption of the second half, Rangers took the game to the visitors with substitutes, Godwin Aguda and Osas Okoro turning the heat on the visitors ceaselessly but Djemili was in his best form to clutch, block and parry away goal bound shots from Okoro on 67, 71, 75 and 80 minutes of play.
Rangers await last season’s losing finalists, Zamalek of Egypt at the 1/16th round for a place in the lucrative group stage of the competition.
“It was not a bad game. We played better in the second half and we are going to build on the positives from this match as we progress in the competition. For the game against Zamalek in the next round, we shall approach it with the sole aim of picking the ticket to play in the group stage,” Rangers coach Amapakabo said.
Elsewhere in Port Harcourt, Rivers United made mincemeat of their Malian opponent, AS Real, with a 4-0 win to the admiration of the Rivers fans. The Nigerians had returned with a goalless draw from Bamako last weekend, a result that the captain feared was delicate considering the possibility of AS Real scoring in Port Harcourt to raise the bar for them.
The Malians were however deflated midway into the first half as Rivers pressure earned them a penalty in the 27th minute when a Malian defender was flagged for a handball. Bernard Ovoke smashed it in for the opening goal of the contest.
The Malians held off further pressure to end the first period with a goal down and opened the second half with the hope to net one for away goal advantage which would have put roast to Rivers.
Their struggles were however flattened when Esosa Igbinoba doubled the lead in the 56th minute and just thereafter, AS Real conceded another penalty which Ovoke neatly tucked into the Malian post to make it a brace for himself and three goals within the first 15 minutes of the second half.
The Malians obviously seeing the game beyond them lost all steam leading Rivers to score one more to close at 4-0 and advance to the first round with a 4-0 aggregate score and a date with AL- Merreikh of Sudan in March.
In the Confederation cup, Wikki Tourists could only score once against Sierra Leone side, RSLAF to exit on a 2-1 aggregate score while F.C Ifeanyi Ubah, after conceding once in regulation time to cancel out the one goal lead against El-Masry of Egypt, were not lucky in the ensuring penalty kicks as they lost their first three kicks while their host converted all three from the spot to crash out.