Ogunbote praises heroic Rangers

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Enugu Rangers head coach, Gbenga Ogunbote has praised his side’s resilience after they emerged as Aiteo Cup champions, reports Footballllive.ng.

The Flying Antelopes memorably came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 and stretched the game to penalties before winning in Asaba on Wednesday evening.

A quintessential game of two halves, the 1977 Africa Cup Winners’ Cup champions were unbelievably poor in the first half and remarkably brilliant in the second, and hung onto their final period luck to prevail in the penalty shoot –out as Sai Masu Gida imploded on the turf of the Stephen Keshi Stadium.

 

Governors Ifeanyi Okowa and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Delta and Enugu States respectively; Deputy Governors Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna and Philip Shaibu of Edo State; Deputy Managing Director of AITEO Group; the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Sports, Goni Bukar Lawan; Members of the NFF Executive Committee led by the President, Mr. Amaju Pinnick and; Members of the Delta State Executive Council were among dignitaries in the VVIP Box as Pillars raced into a two –goal lead within the first 20 minutes and almost made it three few minutes later.

 

The Flying Antelopes on the field, as well as their fans in the stands, were a pathetic sight to behold as the boys from Kano, inspired by the creativity of ageless Rabiu Ali in the middle and the pace of Junior Lokosa, ran them ragged in an incredibly one –sided first half.

Lokosa, Bright Silas and goalscorers Ali and Ibrahim Alhassan were in imperious form, and as the clock wound down gradually in the opening period, they even got the ball in the net again only for Referee Adebimpe Quadri to spot an infringement in the build –up.

 

The third was not long in coming. Nyima Nwagwua shot past Olufemi Thomas from a quick counter –attack with only five minutes in the second half and dignitaries and spectators thought the match was won and lost.

 

However, Rangers had other ideas. Coach Gbenga Ogunbote ejected the jittery Thomas for Nana Bonsu and sent in Ajani Ibrahim for Chiamaka Madu. Rangers were re-invigorated and after substitute Kelvin Itoya pulled one back in the 79thminute and Chidera Ezeh got the second four minutes later, the neutrals began to rout for the Antelopes.

 

With the tide of the game and the psychological effect on Sai Masu Gida, it was no surprise when Rangers equalized a minute into added time through substitute Ajani Ibrahim.

 

In the shoot–out, Pillars’ captain Rabiu Ali booted his kick over the bar and Nana Bonsu saved from Jimoh Ismail, leaving Isaac Loute to score and send Rangers to next year’s CAF Confederation Cup.

 

Ogunnbote informed Footballlive.ng of his side’s resilience: “It’s a nice trait to have.

“I think we did enough to win the game in second half.
“We’ve got a bit of class and he can do that week in and week out. Our reaction straight away after that is credit to the lads.
“I was on the sideline when they scored, screaming for the lads not to let their heads drop and that it only takes one chance. That’s exactly what happened and that reaction was fantastic.
“It took us a bit of time but we got to grips with them in the second half. We stepped it up then and I think it would have been unfair on the lads to lose on penalties.”
The coach praised Bonsu for his penalty heroics.
“Nana Bonsu can do that, I’ve seen him do it in training. He helped us during the shootouts.”
“It was a great game for the neutral. We thought we did enough with that late goal. It was a great strike from Ajani.”

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