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Aiteo Cup 2017: The Complete Review

Despite a new name and branding, the Nigeria Cup final concluded in familiar circumstances - with Akwa United defeating Niger Tornadoes in a penalty shootout - to become the sixth final in the last decade decided on spotkicks.

While the goalless draw was somewhat repetitive, there were various storylines that piqued the interest throughout the competition, which can be considered a success for energy giants Aiteo, who became the cup's first sponsors since Coca Cola ended their relationship with the tournament in 2008.

Despite the drab final, United were deserved winners, although some may argue that the Promise Keepers, who earned a CAF Confederation Cup ticket with their success, had an easier route to the final in comparison to Niger Tornadoes.

The beaten finalists defeated league champions Plateau United and holders FC Ifeanyi Ubah to set up their final clash with United. Christian Pyagbara may have drawn a blank in the final, but he ended the campaign as top scorer with seven goals, while teammate goalkeeper Ojo Olorunleke was decisive in the shootout win. He was unsurprisingly named as goalkeeper of the tournament.

Surely it's only a matter of time until the former Flying Eagles goalkeeper gets an invitation to represent the CHAN Super Eagles.

Giant killers Ngwa FC ruffled a few feathers including those of Lobi Stars en route to a Round-of-16 elimination by Sunshine Stars.

The church-owned team, despite not having the financial strength of majority of their competitors, were a delight to watch, and certainly a few of their standout players could be on their way to launching their professional football careers with prospective suitors after their encouraging showings.

Katsina United Feeders also deserve credit after a rollercoaster run in the tournament, with their promising showings halted decisively when they were thrashed 8-2 in the quarter-final by Akwa United.

The non-league team obviously could be counted as one of the biggest winners of this year's cup edition, and with Katsina United retaining their top flight league status at the end of last season, a few of the feeder club's star players could earn promotion to the main team.

United's aforementioned star frontman Pyagbara produced the individual performance of the tournament with his four-goal heroics against Katsina United Feeders in the last eight.

Similarly, Adeshina Gata of ABS FC netted a hat-trick in a 6-3 win against Adamawa Feeders in the Round of 32, a game in which 15-year-old David Okoromi made his debut for the Ilorin-based club, thus becoming the youngest player to feature in this year's Aiteo Cup.

The 2017 Aiteo Cup was the most financially lucrative in the history of the cup competition, with the winners claiming N25million and runners-up Tornadoes bagging N10million.

That outlay should set the tone for the tournament moving forward, and expect improvements in terms of organisation and reimbursement in subsequent editions.

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