Akwa United’s hero in Sunday’s AITEO Cup final, Gabriel Okechukwu has admitted he was a ‘little bit scared’ before he took the last penalty that gave his team the AITEO Cup title in Lagos. Despite going into the final as favourites, United laboured for most part of the game as their opponents Niger Tornadoes matched them kick for kick and pace for pace, producing a less desirable contest for national television viewers.
Okechukwu who was one of five players that Akwa United signed midway through the just ended season shared his delight at the success to www.aclsports.com after the game.
“I feel very very happy because I joined the team in the second round of the season and we tried to go through the league to get a continental ticket but it wasn’t possible. We then decided to focus on this AITEO Cup to make it back to the continent so I give God the glory for making it possible,” expressed Okechukwu.
A member of Nigeria’s squad to the last West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations in Ghana, Okechukwu came on as a second half replacement for AITEO Cup top scorer Christian Pyagbara and the lanky striker missed Akwa’s best chance of the game five minutes from time.
“I believe it’s football, you get some chances, you convert some and you miss some. So, I lost the chance, I had to buckle up and continue playing because we needed victory and we needed a goal. We fought to get the goal but we couldn’t get the goal but it ended through penalty shoot out and we give God the glory for giving us the victory,” he added.
His swift switch from villain to hero status was however accomplished during the ensuing spot kicks. In a shoot out vitiated by poor penalties from both sides, it was Okechukwu who converted his side’s first kick in sudden death penalty, only their third success of the night to deliver the title for the Promise Keepers. “The coaches gave us instructions for the five players that would take the five penalties and if it exceeded that, I would take the sixth. So while I sat and the Tornadoes player (Bolaji Adeyemo) missed the last one, I said to myself, you can do this. I went there, I was a little bit scared but I had to compose myself, I chose the spot and I put it there.”
United will now join former African Champions Enyimba in representing Nigeria in next year’s CAF Inter-club competition, the Confederation Cup.
Cover Image: LMC Media