Enugu Rangers are the newly crowned champions of the Aiteo Cup after a scintillating come back.
Rangers defeated fellow premier league side Kano Pillars in front of a mammoth crowd.
The finals of the 2018 Aiteo Cup was played at the 25,000 capacity Stephen Keshi Stadium in
Asaba, Delta state.
Asaba was brought to a standstill as football bigwigs in the country all converge at the sports
edifice to witness the final.
Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick, the League Management Company
Chairman, Shehu Dikko were in attendance.
Super Eagles handler, Gernot Rohr was also present with governors of Enugu and Kano states;
Abdullahi Ganduje and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi respectively.
Enugu Rangers have won the cup five times in the past when it was known as the ‘Challenge Cup’.
Rangers also known as the ‘Flying Antelopes’ won the cup in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1983.
They reached the final on three occasions – 2000, 2004 and 2007 but surprisingly lost to;
Niger Tornadoes (0-1 in 2000), Dolphins FC (now Rivers United 0-1 in 2004) and Dolphins again in 2007 on penalty shootout
But ever since the annual showpiece was rechristened ‘Aiteo Cup’ last year, Akwa United became the first winners.
On the other side of the divide, Kano Pillars have found the Aiteo Cup the most difficult mountain to climb.
Pillars last won the trophy in 1953 and ever since never made it to the final.
They failed to maintain resilience all through the match as they crumbled in the second half.
Enugu Rangers produced a stunning come back to win a sixth Aiteo ‘Federation’ Cup.
It was Rangers’ first title since 1983 and Coach Gbenga Ogunbote won his first cup with the Enugu team.
Kano Pillars vs Enugu Rangers starting eleven
Kano Pillars XI
22 David Obiazo; 2 Ifeanyi Nweke, 14 Emmanuel Anyanwu, 4 Joel Djondang, 11 Chris Madaki, 18 Ikenna Hillary Paul, 24 Nzube Anaezemba, 8 Alassan Ibrahim, 10 Rabiu Ali (c), 21 Junior Lokosa, 28 Nyima Nwagua
16 Femi Thomas; 31 Isaac Loute, 4 Okey Odita, 34 Semiu Liadi, 21 Ugonna Uzochukwu, 40 Ugochukwu Ugwuoke, 11 Chidera Ezeh, 17 Bright Silas, 30 Chiamaka Madu, 35 Ifeanyi George, 7 Godwin Zaki
Kano Pillars beat Katsina United, while Rangers beat Akwa United as both sides booked their places in the final.
Enugu Rangers 3 -3 Kano Pillars
Pillars started well and took an early lead in the fifth minute through Rabiu Ali who struck from 25 yards.
Alhassan Ibrahim doubled Pillars’ lead nodding home a corner in the 20th minute.
Rangers looked as mere spectators as they could not find their footing in the first half.
The third goal for Pillars came through Nyima Nwagua early in the second half.
It seemed over for Enugu Rangers but they fought on and pulled one back in the 77th minute from a Kelvin Itoya’s strike.
Chidera Ezeh tapped home the second goal for Enugu Rangers in the 82th minute, bringing hope once again.
Then a minute into added time, Rangers made a remarkable come back from substitute Ajani Ibrahim.
The stadium went electric with fans and spectators cheering thunderously including Governor Ugwuanyi.
And at the end of regulation time, Enugu Rangers were crowned champions as they won 4-2 during penalty shootout.