Enugu Rangers International are the 2018 Aiteo Cup champions after they completed a stunning comeback from 3-0 down to beat Kano Pillars 4-2 on penalties in the final of the #AiteoCup at the Stephen Keshi stadium in Asaba on Wednesday.
Two first half goals from Rabiu Ali and Alhassan Ibrahim gave Pillars a 2-0 lead, before a third goal from Nyima Nwangua in the second half seem to have put the tie beyond Rangers’ reach.
However, like they did in their semifinal clash against Nasarawa United, the Flying Antelopes in dramatic fashion equalised courtesy of three goals in the space of 11 minutes from Kevin Itoya, Chidera Ezeh and Ajani Ibrahim.
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It was a dominant display from Ibrahim Musa’s men, who were the better side for most of the game and deservedly went into the break comfortably ahead.
Both sides started slowly, but it was the Kano side who took advantage of a defensive mix up to power home Pillars 1-0 ahead in the fifth minute.
It was the veteran’s sixth goal of the competition, and is experience came to bear the way he calmly hammered his effort past a helpless Olufemi Thomas.
15 minutes later, Rangers will find themselves 2-0 down as Ibrahim doubles his advantage straight from a corner kick.
Things almost went from bad to worse for Rangers seven minutes later, Junior Lokosa met a superb delivery from the right wing from Ibrahim, but the Flying Antelopes were saved their blushes as Lokosa failed to direct his header at goal.
There were no other chances thereafter as Pillars held on to take a 2-0 advantage at the break.
HT: Rangers 0-2 Kano Pillars
Note of caution:
Rangers came from 2-0 down to win their semifinal game, Pillars surrendered a 2-0 lead in their semifinal game before winning on penalties.
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After the break, it was not the first time Rangers would find themselves down by two goals, but their hopes of a similar fight back like they did in the semifinal clash against Nasarawa United were soon extinguished (or so we thought) just three minutes into the second half.
Pillars put the game beyond Rangers reach as Nwangua eluded Okey Odita before calmly slotting past Thomas from close ranger gave Sai Masu Gida a 3-0 lead.
The Flying Antelopes reacted to the third goal with Gbenga Ogunbote making a raft of changes, with three of his substitute going on to become heros,including goalkeeper, Nana Bonsu,
One of the substitutes, Itoya started the comeback with an excellent effort from 30yards, before Ezeh and Ibrahim added two more late goals to take the game into penalties.
Pillars missed two of their kicks, while Rangers netted theirs to claim their first cup win in over a decade and a first title since 1983.
The result means Rangers have now won their sixth FA cup, the third most of any Nigerian team.