Akwa United players and officials celebrating their Federation Cup victory at the Agege Stadium…yesterday.
Akwa United, who first won the Nigeria Federation Cup in 2015, yesterday defeated Niger Tornadoes 3-2 on penalties to become the maiden champions of the rejuvenated competition now sponsored by Aiteo Group.
Goalkeeper of Niger Tornadoes, Aliko Mustapha stopped two spot kicks, including one, which went wide off his goal, but his teammates failed to take advantage of his heroics.
Andrew Ikefe missed the vital spot kick, which would have sealed the win for his side, pushing the shoot out into sudden death where Akwa United emerged victorious when Olorunleke Ojo saved his first spot kick of the evening.
Gabriel Okechukwu, who missed a sitter during the course of the game, atoned for his miss during the game by burying his spot kick with ease to power his team to the trophy.
Akwa United were tagged favourites to lift the Cup by pundits, who believe they play the most beautiful brand of football in the country.
However, Tornadoes made life difficult for them from the outset as they covered every blade of the grass at the Agege Stadium and harried their opponents for every ball forcing them to hoof the ball at the slightest touch.
Chances in the first half were rare as both teams contrived to produce a borefest of a contest.
First real chance, albeit, good fortune fell to Abdullahi Wakili in Akwa United’s box and he frittered it away when he should have made the goalkeeper Olorunleke Ojo work at least.
The often-creative Akwa United side just could not put together their act to produce the free-flowing football associated with teams managed by their head coach, Abdu Maikaba, who cut a frustrated figure on the sideline.
The best chance of the game fell to Okechukwu, who took a sweet first touch after springing Tornadoes offside line, but scooped his attempt well over the bar with goalkeeper Aliko spreading out himself big to narrow him down.
Okechukwu’s miss at the death sent the game into spot kicks in which he redeemed himself to score the winning penalty in sudden death to win it 3-2 for Akwa United.
Akwa United will now represent Nigeria in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup alongside Enyimba, while NPFL champions, Plateau United and MFM FC play in the Champions League.
The win also gave Akwa United the N25 million prize money, while Niger Tornadoes got the N10 million meant for the silver medalist.