Ifeanyi George scored a brace for champions Enugu Rangers as they toppled last season’s runners-up, Rivers United 2-1 in a fiercely-fought Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest in Enugu on Monday.

The game which originally kicked off on Sunday was halted in the 20th minute after heavy rains rendered the playing surface at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium waterlogged.

Upon resumption on Monday morning, Rangers took the game by the scruff of the neck and were soon in front following a sumptuous team move that completely carved the Rivers United defence open.

Tope Olusesi provided the assist from the flowing move with George merely required to tap into an unguarded net from close range.

Rangers continued to dominate and won a penalty soon after the referee adjudged that Ifeanyi Nweke had handled in the box.

George stepped up and converted in nerveless fashion as he sent Femi Thomas, the Rivers United goalkeeper, the wrong way much to the delight of the home faithful.

United were reeling and could have conceded a third had Godwin Aguda not lost his footing at the opportune moment with the visitors’ defence in sixes and sevens.

Rivers United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma seemed to have delivered a rousing team talk as United looked a completely different side after the restart.

They pushed the champions back more into their half in the second period and deservedly pulled a goal back in the 74th minute.

Nweke was brilliant in the build-up as he intercepted a dangerous Osas Okoro pass into the United half before playing a brilliant pass to Lukman Mohammed.

Mohammed raced all of 40 yards before passing deftly to the overlapping Nweke who coolly picked out Ogbugh with an inch-perfect low cross that the attacker stabbed home from close range.

It was Ogbugh’s third goal in as many matches in the NPFL and underlines his status as one of the division’s most potent marksman.

United pushed for a late leveller, throwing more bodies upfront but Rangers defended spiritedly to close out the win.

Head coach of Rangers, Sylvanus Okpala praised his lads for the win which sees them leave the drop zone.

“I must commend my players for this win against a very physical Rivers United side,” he told supersport.com

“Hopefully, this will spur us on to get more good results in our coming games.

“It was a satisfying performance,” he said.

United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma also addressed the media after the game.

“We had a slow start to the game and that cost us dearly.

“Our second half display was a lot better but we must start games better in future.

“Now we must focus on our next game in Kano against Pillars,” he said.

Rivers United are now in 16th place on the log with 41 points from 31 matches while Rangers climbed to 13th with 42 points from 32 matches.

Match Statistics

Enugu Rangers: Seidu Mutawakilu, Osas Okoro, Ugwu Uwadiegwu, Charles Henlong, Okey Odita, Orji Kalu, Ifeanyi George (Morris Chebem 78') Bright Cilas, Tope Olusesi (Bobby Clement 78') Chiamaka Madu and Godwin Aguda.

Substitutes not Used: Itodo Akor, Chibuzor Madu, Chizoba Amaefule

Rivers United: Femi Thomas, Ifeanyi Nweke, Gabriel Olalekan, Douhadji Joseph (Semiu Liadi 24'), Ali Chiwendu, Emeka Atuloma, Yusuf Jaiyeola (Ifeanyi Okoye 76') Esosa Igbinoba, Lukman Mohammed, Emeka Ogbugh, and Onoriode Odah (Israel Daniel 52')

Substitutes not Used: Sunday Rotimi, Zoumana Doumbia, Kingsley Patrick, and Christian Weli

Yellow cards: Osas Okoro 91' (Rangers) - Lukman Mohammed 67' (Rivers United)

Goals: Ifeanyi George 26', Tope Olusesi 39' - Emeka Ogbugh 74'