Favourites survive scares to qualify for Aiteo Cup final
Favourites Enugu Rangers and Kano Pillars will meet in the Aiteo Cup final after both survived scares from underdogs Nasarawa United and Katsina United respectively to win their semi finals on Wednesday.
Rangers battled back to secure a 4-2 comeback victory against Nasarawa United at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano, despite trailing to Nojeem Olukokun's first-half brace.
However, they halved the deficit just before the half-time interval, and then netted three second-half strikes - including an impressive two goals in three minutes - to complete a remarkable turnaround.
This is the five-time champions' first Nigeria Cup final since 2007.
At the Agege Stadium in Lagos, goalkeeper David Obiozor saved two penalties as Kano Pillars defeated Katsina United 4-1 after Sai Masu Gida threw away a two-goal advantage to end proceedings 2-2 in regulation time.
Junior Lokosa's 13th-minute deflected strike handed Pillars the lead, which was doubled on the hour-mark by Nzube Anaezemba's stunning 30-yard missile to leave goalkeeper Yinka David with no chance.
Katsina were not deterred despite trailing, and their sustained pressure resulted in a 69th-minute penalty. Timothy Danladi converted the rebound after Obiozor guessed the right way to save his initial effort.
Central defender Chinedu Ajanah capitalised on some slack marking to head home unmarked in the 79th minute, drawing Katsina level as they looked to up the tempo to snatch a late winner.
Pillars were left cursing their luck at the death as Ajanah appeared to have handled the ball while on the turf, only for the referee to wave play on - to the astonishment of the capacity crowd.
In the ensuing shootout, Obiozor atoned for some unconvincing goalkeeping by saving efforts from Destiny Ashadi and Danladi, before Ikenna Hilary Paul slotted home the winning kick for Pillars.
The final will be contested by Rangers and Kano Pillars on October 24 at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, in a heavyweight showdown which guarantees the winner a ticket to represent Nigeria in the 2019 CAF Confederation Cup.