Enugu Rangers staged a thrilling comeback from three goals down to beat Kano Pillars on penalties and win their first Nigerian Cup since 1983 on Wednesday. Rangers will represent Nigeria in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup after claiming their sixth Nigerian Cup title in total, pocketing a cash prize of 25 million Naira ($69,000).Pillars looked to be cruising to their first-ever Cup triumph when they led 3-0 with just 13 minutes to play at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba. But Kevin Itoya’s screamer from the edge of the box beat goalkeeper David Obiozo to give Rangers a glimmer of hope. The Flying Antelopes made the game even more interesting in the 82nd minute as Chidera Ezeh made it 3-2, and substitute Ajani Ibrahim’s brave diving header restored parity in injury-time. Former Pillars defender Isaac Loute completed the Rangers revival, scoring the decisive penalty to win the shoot-out 4-2. Kano Pillars had taken the lead after less than five minutes through skipper Rabiu Ali, before Nigeria Under-20 midfielder Alhassan Ibrahim scored directly from a corner and Nwagua Nyima netted shortly after half-time.
The Enugu State Government lauded all enthusiastic fans of Rangers International Football Club across the country for their prayers, solidarity and support that contributed to the remarkable feat recorded by the club in the finals of the 2018 Aiteo Cup competition which saw the club staging one of the greatest comebacks to lift the trophy.
In a statement by the state’s Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Hon. Joseph Udedi, the State Government, which dedicated the victory to God, noted that the appreciation became imperative in view of the fact that it had, prior to the historic feat, “appealed to all teeming fans of Rangers across the country to show solidarity and support to our darling club and pray for its victory at the tournament”.
“Consequently, the Enugu State Government wishes to thank you all for the prayers and tremendous support, which made it possible for the Flying Antelopes to stage one of the greatest comebacks to lift the trophy,” the statement added.
The state government also “appreciated officials and players of Rangers for their doggedness and team spirit”, which it said contributed to the club’s victory at the tournament, despite having conceded three goals earlier in the game.
It equally thanked the Nigerian Football Federation, competition’s sponsor, AITEO, and the Delta State Government for the successful hosting of the event, expressing delight that Enugu Rangers won the trophy under the Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration after 35 years of the club’s last victory in the competition. The statement recalled that it was also under the present administration that Rangers won the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) cup after 32 years without a trophy, stressing that AITEO cup has reconfirmed that “Enugu State is truly in the hands of God”.
The State Government therefore, reassured the people of Enugu State and indeed all teeming fans of Rangers that it will “remain committed to the noble ideals of the iconic football club as a national brand admired by many staunch supporters across Nigeria”.