Rangers International FC of Enugu on Wednesday stunned Kano Pillars in what will be described as a comeback of the century by cutting down a three goal deficit to win 4-2 on penalty shootouts to win the Nigerian Federations cup at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta state.
The game which was played at the 25,000 capacity Stephen Keshi Stadium had ended 3-3 at regulation time, after Rangers fought endlessly from three goals deficit to level up the game.
The boys in Kano had about 400 travelling supporters in jubilation in the larger part of the match but looked very nervy in the latter part of the game. with great display of soccer artistry to the cheering spectators.
Rabiu Ali opened scoring in the 5th minute of the encounter by dribbling pass two Rangers defenders to slot the ball to the roof of the net to make it 1-0.
Pillars where not done yet and continue with more pressure to their opponents by creating more shots on goal and spreading passes all over the filed of play with the Rangers team looking like an secondary school boys panicking to submit assignments.
The boys in Kano continue their complete dominance and was awarded a corner in the 20th minute. Alhassan Ibrahim produced a moment of magic to make it 2-0 after scoring from the corner kick making Rangers goalkeeper Femi Thomas helpless.
The second half began and Kano pillars weren’t done yet and got their third goal in the 47th minute after striker Nwagua Nymar took advantage of a sloppy Rangers defence to increase the scoreline to 3-0.
The coach of Rangers made some changes in the second half and it was one of the substitute Kelvin Itoya who pulled one back by firing a thunderous shot from 25 yards to give his team a life line.
The match was later delayed after two Pillars players got injured in a space of 15 minutes and required ambulance to be stretched off to the hospital.
Play resumed and in the 82th minute, Chidera Ezeh made it 3-2 after managing to score from a scramble piece of play to send the stadium to a different scene with some cheering and some looking neervous.
The flying antelopes completed the comeback after 8 minutes was added as additional time due to the injury delay and in the 92nd minutes of additional time, Ajani Ibrahim capitalised on the error from the Kano Pillars goalkeeper by nodding in from close range to send the stadium into frenzy.
At the end of the 98th minute, referee Adebimpe Quadiri blew his whistle to end the game and went straight into penalty shootouts.
Rabiu Ali ballooned his penalty over the cross bar and Jimoh Ismaila saw his penalty saved by the Rangers goalkeeper while Rangers scored all five penalties to win the shootout 4no-2 and life the trophy.
After the presentation of the trophy, chief coach of Rangers football club was full of praise for his team and acknowledged the present of Gov. Ugwuanyi motivated the team to victory. “Determination and Gov. Ugwuanyi’s presence saw us through.
He also added “Frankly speaking, we made a huge mistake in our game tonight, we gave away possessions and that gave our opponents so many chances. But as a coach, I take blame whether we won or lost.”
However, during the first half break, we told ourselves the truth, we talked to one another and realised we could still make it. We believe in our determination to fight back and it paid off.”
But most importantly, the presence of our governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who came to our dressing room to have a talk with the players made a huge difference too. He is a father figure to us.”
“The governor charged the players notto lose hope in the remaining 45 minutes of play. He assured them of his support and told them to give their best in the remaining half of the game,” Ogunbote said.
Speaking about the surprised change in the goalkeeping department Ogunbote said he won’t blame the goalkeeper, it was a decision of ill-luck.
“Femi had a bad day today, and that ishow it is in football. I can’t say he is not a good goalkeeper because he conceded three goals. Football is like that, some days are just so disappointing,” Ogunbote added.
With this victory Rangers International of Enugu will now be representing Nigeria in the CAF CONFEDERATIONS CUP.