Five-time Nigeria F.A/AITEO Cup champions, Rangers International F.C wednesday in Kano fought from two goals down to defeat Nasarawa United 4-2 and set up a dream final against Kano Pillars.
Kano Pillars on the other hand grabbed the ticket to the final in a similar dramatic note. The Sai Masu Gida left their travelling fans on their seat edges to win 4-1 in penalty shoot out. Regulation time had deadlocked at 2-2 at the Agege Stadium in Lagos.
The AITEO Cup final is scheduled for Asaba later this month with the overall winners representing the country in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup.
The ‘Flying Antelopes’ were pegged back as early as the 4th minute when sloppy defending gifted Nojeem Olukokun a chance to stab home the opening goal.
At the half hour mark, another mix up at the back line of the Enugu side created another opening for the ‘Panther’ who scored with the precision of a cat.
In between the goals, Rangers forward were wasteful in front of goal as Ugochukwu Ugwuoke’ fine dribbling runs and cut backs were not utilized by either Ifeanyi Okoro or Chiamaka Madu.
However, Ugonna Uzochukwu reduced the deficit on the stroke of half time with a swift left footed shot that sailed inside the net for the ‘Solid Miners’ first conceded goal in the tournament.
In the second stanza of the game, Rangers upped their game and the former solid defence of the Nasarawa side caved in as Ugochukwu Ugwuoke’s sublime finish on 69th minutes drew Rangers level.
Ugonna Uzochukwu grabbed his brace for his side two minutes later with a connecting header off an Ugwuoke’s inch perfect cross while Godwin Zaki scored the fourth goal as the ball fell kindly for him to tap in after the goalkeeper managed to stop an Ajani Ibrahim’ ferocious shot on 79th minute.
Kelvin Itoya did find the back of the net for what would have been the fifth goal but was ruled out by the referee for being in an off side position.
Coach Olugbenga Ogunbote said after the enterprising win, “This one is gone and we give God all the glory. We were really stretched but I thank God we played a good game even when we were trailing by two goals. We created the chances but were unlucky not to have connected before they went two goals up. The finals will be another game with a different approach as our target remains winning the title.”
Coach Kabiru Dogo blamed over-confidence for his wards’ poor show after going two goals up stressing, “I congratulate Rangers for the win and wish them well in the final match. I believe that we were over confident after the two goals and it worked against us in the end.”
In Agege, Pillars were cruising to a 2-0 win before Katsina United fought back to draw level with goals from central defenders Timothy Danladi and Chinedu Ajanah.
Incidentally, striker Junior Lokosa’s shot was deflected into goal by CHAN Eagles defender Danladi.
Nzube Anaezemba then scored a super goal from distance in the second half to put Pillars two goals up only for Katsina United to stage a remarkable comeback.
However, in the resultant penalty shootout, both Destiny Ashadi and Dabladi could not beat the Pillars goalkeeper with only Obinna Eleje converting his spot kick.