Kano Pillars to Battle Enugu Rangers in 2018 AITEO Cup Final
The final of the 2018 AITEO Cup (formerly known as Federation cup) will feature rivals Rangers International F.C and Kano Pillars.
Both clubs emerged finalist of the oldest cup competition in a keenly contested semi-final encounter at Lagos and Kano respectively.
At the Soccer Temple, Agege Stadium, Lagos, four times league winner, Kano Pillars beat Katsina United on penalties.
The Masu Gida side cruised to a 2 goal lead courtesy of Junior Lokosa deflected shot in the 13th minute and Nzube Anaezemba strike from distance in the second half.
However, Chanji Boys from Katsina stage a remarkable comeback to draw level with goals from central defenders Timothy Danladi and Chinedu Ajanah.
During the penalty shootout, Katsina United’s Destiny Ashadi and Timothy Danladi missed the first and third spot kicks respectively while Obinna scored the second one.
Kano Pillars however converted all their four kicks to advance to the final.
At the Sanni Abacha Stadium, five times FA Cup kings, Rangers fought from two goals down to end the fairy runs of Nasarawa United beating them 4-2 in another thrilling encounter.
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.
Speaking after the game, Coach Olugbenga Ogunbote said: “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.”
The 2018 AITEO Cup final is scheduled for the newly constructed Stephen Keshi Stadium Asaba, Delta State later this month with the overall winners representing the country in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup.