Rangers stun Pillars to win AITEO/ Federation Cup

Rangers v Kano Pillars
In
what must rank as one of the most spectacular Final matches of the National Cup
in its 73 –year history, Rangers International came from three goals down to
turn the table against Kano Pillars and win on penalties to clinch the AITEO/
Federation Cup.
In
a quintessential game of two halves, the 1977 Africa Cup Winners’ Cup champions
were unbelievably poor in the first half and remarkably brilliant in the
second, and hung onto their final period luck to prevail in the penalty shoot
–out as Sai Masu Gida imploded on the turf of the Stephen Keshi Stadium.
Pillars
raced into a two –goal lead within the first 20 minutes and almost made it
three few minutes later.
The
Flying Antelopes on the field, as well as their fans in the stands, were a
pathetic sight to behold as the boys from Kano, inspired by the creativity of
ageless Rabiu Ali in the middle and the pace of Junior Lokosa, ran them ragged
in an incredibly one –sided first half.
Lokosa,
Bright Silas and goal scorers Ali and Ibrahim Alhassan were in imperious form,
and as the clock wound down gradually in the opening period, they even got the
ball in the net again only for Referee Adebimpe Quadri to spot an infringement
in the build –up.
The
third was not long in coming. Nyima Nwagwa shot past Olufemi Thomas from a
quick counter –attack with only five minutes in the second half and dignitaries
and spectators thought the match was won and lost.
However,
Rangers had other ideas. Coach Gbenga Ogunbote ejected the jittery Thomas for
Nana Bonsu and sent in Ajani Ibrahim for Chiamaka Madu. Rangers were
re-invigorated and after substitute Kelvin Itoya pulled one back in the 79th
minute and Chidera Ezeh got the second four minutes later, the neutrals began
to rout for the Antelopes.
With
the tide of the game and the psychological effect on Sai Masu Gida, it was no
surprise when Rangers equalized a minute into added time through substitute
Ajani Ibrahim.
In
the shoot –out, Pillars’ captain Rabiu Ali booted his kick over the bar and
Nana Bonsu saved from Jimoh Ismail, leaving Isaac Loute to score and send
Rangers to next year’s CAF Confederation Cup.
The
winners were presented with the dummy of a N25 million cheque by sponsors
AITEO, while Pillars went home N10 million richer.  

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