By Wale Mustapha.
A 78th minutes goal from Ibrahim Enesi secured the 2018 Aiteo Cup group stage ticket for Kogi United as they edged out last year’s runners up Niger Tornadoes by a lone goal in the Round of 32 clash on Sunday in Makurdi.
The grueling encounter decided on Sunday at the Aper Aku Stadium saw both sides finding it difficult to find a way through in the first half with few chances created.
Tornadoes came close on two occasions to take the lead with Flying Eagles’ winger Ibrahim Babawo initiating the attacks but couldn’t locate his frontman James Kenneth in front goal as first half ended goaless.
The second half was more lively and promising with goalkeepers putting to test and were forced to make good saves on different occasions.
Tornadoes proved their league status over United in the opening stages of second half and almost took the lead in the 64th minutes when Ibrahim Babawo was freed on the flank but his effort was cleared by Moses Kayode before reaching James Kenneth.
United broke the deadlock in the 78th minutes when they attacked in numbers and put Tornadoes’ defense under pressure.
Enesi intercepted a back pass from Iko James and took advantage to shoot past out-rushing Mustapha Aliko.
The Ikon Allah boys responded quickly trying to force an equaliser with the likes of Usman Bashir, Babawo and Eric Frimpong coming close but fell short of ideas in the final third.
Technical Adviser of Tornadoes, Abara Hamza who praised Kogi United for the deserved victory noted that his side paid for their profligacies just as he expressed confidence that the Confluence state club have what it takes to go far in the competition giving how the took out his team.
“I must say we were unfortunate to lose today, we paid for not taking our chances and I congratulate Kogi United because they gave us a good fight.
“I think they have what it takes to go far, if they can beat us I think they have a chance to cause more surprises this year,” he said.
His counterpart for Kogi United, Tunde Abdulrahman commended his team for their second half’s resolve which earned them the famous victory adding that his target was to make history with United by reaching the final having achieved similar feats with Katsina United and Ranchers on two occasions.
“I feel very happy with our victory and qualification to the next round, I thank my players for the way they approached the game, Tornadoes gave us a tough time but we really brace up to match them especially in the second half.
“I’m happy for Enesi for scoring the important goal, he’s really improving by the games and I’m confident he has great future ahead of him.
“I think just like other teams, we have a chance to make it to the final, I’m confident we can achieve it, if we can play like this and beat Tornadoes, I think we what it takes, I’ve done that before with Katsina United on two occasions and will to do that again,” Abdulrahman said.
Kogi United will return home to continue their pursuit of NPFL promotion with Matchday 11 Nigeria National League, NNL home game against NAF FC.
Kogi United starters: Shola Sheshere, Abubakar Danlami, Alex Ewulum (Victor Tale 80′) Kingsley Ogwuche, Musa Stephen, Kayode Moses, John Jerome, Idris Muye, Ibrahim Enesi (Salisu Tanko 84′), Osas Eghe (Olushola Ajala 81) Daniel Frimpong.
Subs not used: Salisu Ogbe, Abubakar Tenimu, Tijani Umar, Austin Bentu.
Niger Tornadoes Starters: Mustapha Aliko, Jubril Mustapha, Iko James, Andrew Ikefe, Austin Igenepo, Gwarza Iorliam, Awwal Tanko (Bashir Usman), Ugwu Moses, Kenneth James (Eric Frimpong) Bolaji Adeyemo (Amar Abdulkarim) Ibrahim Babawo.
Subs not used: Terkaa Melai, Ilyasu Ishyaku, Hammed Lukman, Musa Suleiman.