Coaches of last year’s finalists in the AITEO Cup; Abdu Maikaba and Abubakar Bala on Wednesday qualified their present teams Akwa United and Kwara United to the quarter final of this year’s edition.
Maikaba’s Akwa United have been in imperious form in the defence of their title and became the first team to qualify for the quarters when they defeated a stubborn Kogi United 1-0 at the Aba Centre of the group stage of this year’s competition. Striker Victor Mbaoma tapped home in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time to give the Promise Keepers maximum points from a game which was poised to end goalless.
Akwa United are now followed by Nasarawa United on the standings after Kabiru Dogo’s men edged Wikki Tourists 1-0, thereby eliminating the Bala Nikyu tutored side. Kabir Balogun scored within seconds of coming on in the 72nd minute to condemn Wikki to a second successive loss in the group stage.
Talking of second successive loss, Rivers United were all but eliminated after two games in the Lagos zone after they followed up Monday’s loss to Kano Pillars with a 0-1 defeat to group leaders Kwara United. Ashimu Ahmed scored the game’s only goal after the hour mark to send Kwara, coached by Bala to the quarter final. Bala was the head coach of Niger Tornadoes when they lost to Akwa United on penalties in last year’s final at the Agege Stadium.
In Wednesday’s other game in Lagos, Abia Warriors bounced back from their opening day humiliation with a come-from-behind victory over Kano Pillars. Striker Junior Lokosa gave Pillars the lead on the stroke of half time but Warriors replied with two goals from midfielders Jimoh Oni and Emeka Isaac in the second half to bring back hopes of qualification.
In Kano, there is still all to play for after both matches on Wednesday ended in stalemate. Sunshine Stars came from behind to hold El-Kanemi Warriors to a 1-1 draw with in-form striker Sikiru Alimi netting for Sunshine at the Sani Abacha Stadium after Isusa Mohammed had given El-Kanemi a 64th minute lead.
Rangers FC remain top of the group despite being held 1-1 by third division side Supreme Court. Rangers took the lead through defender Semiu Liadi but Supreme Court levelled with a stoppage time penalty to postpone Rangers’ qualification party.
Wednesday saw the commencement of action at the Gombe centre where CAF Confederation Cup hopeful Enyimba opened with a slender 1-0 win over Katsina United. Striker Sunday Adetunji scored in the eighteenth minute to give the People’s Elephant a great start to their group stage campaign.
Second division side Julius Atete FC were hammered 3-1 by Plateau United in the group’s earlier game.
Action continues at the Gombe zone on Thursday with Enyimba facing Plateau United while Julius Atete will lock horns with Katsina United in a battle of two sides that lost their opening games. Thursday will be observed as rest day in Kano, Aba and Lagos with the final group games holding on Friday.