- Published on Saturday, 30 September 2017 18:56
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By George Akpayen
Sunshine Stars and Niger Tornadoes gave themselves good headstarts in their bid to reach the final of the Aiteo Cup this year with victories in the first leg matches of the semi-final matches on Saturday.
In all Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) semi-finals, Sunshine Stars edged Akwa United 1-0 at the Dipo Dina Stadium in Ijebu-Ode while Cup holders FC Ifeanyiubah blew a two-goal lead to lose 2-4 to Tornadoes at the Confluence Stadium in Lokoja.
FC Ifeanyiubah regarded as favourites in their match-up with Tornadoes made that rating count just seven minutes into the game when Patrick Ikeokwu finished off a sloppy defending by the home team to give the Anambra Warriors a goal lead.
Tornadoes struggled to open up FC Ifeanyiubah at the back as the away side looked good value for their lead at the break.
Seven minutes into the restart, the Cup holders extended their lead to two-nil from King Osanga's well-struck free kick after Godwin Obaje was fouled near Tornadoes' box.
With a two-goal cushion and game past the 60-minute mark, the Aiteo Cup champions looked good to be tipped for the showpiece game despite having a second leg to play at their FC Ifeanyiubah Stadium in Nnewi next Wednesday week.
The introduction of Rabiu Sani Mohammed by Tornadoes head coach Abubakar Bala galvanized one of the comebacks in the history of the Cup competitions. Rabiu started it all when he scored on 63 minutes after benefitting from FC Ifeanyiubah's poor defending.
Two minutes later, Ibrahim Babawo headed in the goal that evened the scoreline for Tornadoes at 2-2 to set the cat among the pigeons for their opponents.
The comeback for Tornadoes then got completed in the last 15 minutes of the game. Rabiu's pace and tricky put FC Ifeanyiubah on the back foot most of the time and the winger deservedly got his second goal of the game on 75 minutes to give his team the lead for the first time.
The collapse continued for FC Ifeanyiubah into the final 10 minutes. Their Ivorian goalkeeper Idrissa Bamba despite a brave save to keep the Anambra Warriors one goal behind, could not stop Peter Momoh from turning the rebound for Tornadoes to run out 4-2 winners.
A first half goal in the other semi-finals ensured Sunshine Stars will take a slim lead to the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo against 2015 Aiteo Cup champions Akwa United.
Ajibola Otegbeye continued his good scoring form for Sunshine Stars by netting the winner. He has now scored three goals in his last two Cup matches.
The second leg matches will take place next Wednesday week.
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