By Femi Atolagbe
It was a great fight-back from players of five time Nigeria F.A/Aiteo cup champions, Rangers International F.C as they fought from two goals down to overcome Nasarawa United 4-2 in a semi-final clash of NFF/ Aiteo Federation cup 2018, Wednesday, inside the main bowl of Sani Abacha stadium, Kano.
The ‘Flying Antelopes’ were pegged back as early as the 4th minute when sloppy defending gifted Nojeem Olukokun a chance to stab home the opening goal.
At the half hour mark, another mix up at the back line of the Enugu side created another opening for the ‘Panther’ who scored with the precision of a cat.
In between the goals, Rangers forward were wasteful in front of goal as Ugochukwu Ugwuoke’ fine dribbling runs and cut backs were not utilized by either Ifeanyi Okoro or Chiamaka Madu.
However, Ugonna Uzochukwu reduced the deficit on the stroke of half time with a swift left footed shot that sailed inside the net for the ‘Solid Miners’ first conceded goal in the tournament.
In the second stanza of the game, Rangers upped their game and the former solid defense of the Nasarawa side caved in like pack of cards as Ugochukwu Ugwuoke’ sublime finish on 69 minutes drew Rangers level.
Ugonna Uzochukwu grabbed his brace for his side two minutes later with a connecting header off an Ugwuoke’ inch perfect cross while Godwin Zaki scored the fourth goal as the ball fell kindly for him to tap in after the goalkeeper managed to stop an Ajani Ibrahim’ ferocious shot on 79th minute.
Kelvin Itoya did find the back of the net for what would have been the fifth goal but was ruled out by the referee for being in an off side position.
Coach Olugbenga Ogunbote said after the enterprising win, “This one is gone and we give God all the glory. We were really stretched but I thank God we played a good game even when we were trailing by two goals. We created the chances but were unlucky not to have connected before they went two goals up. The finals will be another game with a different approach as our target remains winning the title.”
Coach Kabiru Dogo blamed over-confidence for his wards’ poor show after going two goals up stressing, “I congratulate Rangers for the win and wish them well in the final match. I believe that we were over confident after the two goals and it worked against us in the end.”
Ugonna Uzochukwu of Rangers said, “I am short of words but all I have to say is to thank God for this victory. It was very difficult but we gave it our all. In the final match, I am very sure that God will do it again for us to bring the trophy to Enugu after a very long time.”
Rangers shall be taking on Kano Pillars in the final match of NFF/Aiteo Federation cup 2018 slated for Stephen Keshi stadium, Asaba, Delta state on October 20, 2018 after the ‘Sai Masu Gida’ side overcame neighbours, Katsina United, 4-1 on penalties after scores stood at 2-2.