ASABA MIRACLE: HOW RANGERS BROKE 32 YEARS JINX
NORBERT OKOLIE (ASABA). It was another great performance from seven-time Nigerian league champions, Rangers International F.C as the ‘Flying Antelopes’ did another come-from-behind win in the final match of 2018 NFF/Aiteo Federation cup to lift the trophy for the sixth time with a 4-2 penalty kicks win over Kano Pillars after a 3-3 regulation time score inside Stephen Keshi stadium, Asaba.
In what fans at the stadium dubbed ‘Asaba Miracle’, the Enugu landlords conceded as early as the 5th minute as old warhorse, Rabiu Ali smashed home from the edge of the box while Alhassan Ibrahim extended the lead on 18 minutes to the bewilderment of the champions’ bench and supporters that had Enugu state governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, leading.
Tried as much as they did before the break, Rangers could not find their rhythm.
Nyima Nwangua further increased the tally for the ‘Sai Masu Gida’ side as he profited from a defensive mix up just four minutes into the second stanza for a 3-0 score line.
Coach Olugbenga Ogunbote had to make the needed changes to his personnel on the pitch which saw Kelvin Itoya take the place of Ugochukwu Ugwuoke while Ghanaian shot stopper, Nana Bonsu came in for Femi Thomas and the revival started.
Itoya pulled one back with a screamer of a shot from the edge of the box on 77 minute while Chidera Ezeh further reduced the tally on 82 minutes with late substitute, Ajani Ibrahim completed the come back with a diving header in add on time to send the fans inside Stephen Keshi stadium into wild jubilations.
In the ensuing penalty kicks Rangers players; Godwin Zaki, Chidera Ezeh, Ifeanyi George and Isaac Loute all converted while Rabiu Ali and Jimoh Ismail lost for the Kano side in the four taken.
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Kelvin Itoya said after the encounter, “This can only be God. We give God all the glory. It was a very tough match but we showed our ‘Never Say Die’ fighting spirit and God crowned our efforts with this great success. This triumph is a great leap in my career and I am very excited as this happened after I missed the opportunity with Warri Wolves in Lagos in 2013.”
Coach Ogunbote could only say, “All glory goes to God. This happened because of His mercies and I return all the glory to Him. This was a great scare but we fought hard to ensure we are crowned champions and I am happy. I thank our fans who stood by us even when we were down.”
With this victory, Rangers International F.C picks the only ticket to represent the country in next season’ CAF Confederation cup in addition to the twenty-five million naira prize money from sponsors of the oldest club competition in Nigeria, Aiteo.