- Published on Sunday, 15 October 2017 20:20
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By George Akpayen
Akwa United have won this year's AITEO Cup following their 3-2 win over Niger Tornadoes at the Agege Stadium in Lagos on Sunday night.
The Promise Keepers 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 far and few between in the first half 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.
Akwa United then had one good moment on 26 minutes when Musa Newman's well delivered cross into Tornadoes box was flicked by Reuben Ogbonnaya to deny Ubong Friday from getting on the end of it at the near post.
Four minutes later, an intricate and rare passing play by Akwa United's Afeez Aremu and Cyril Olisema teed up Newman whose first touch let him down just right inside Tornadoes box to allow goalkeeper Mustapha Salihu Aliko to gather.
Tornadoes got close to breaking the deadlock three minutes to half time but Olorunleke was quick to save an angled attempt by Wilfred Ammeh as they rest of the half petered out disappointingly.
It was same of the same in the business end of the showpiece game.
In the 57th minute, Rabiu Sani Mohammed was played into a good shooting position but Akwa United defender Godspower Igudia closed him down leaving his with the option of toe-poking which hardly troubled Olorunleke.
The introduction of Gabriel Okechukwu for Newman somehow revved up things for Akwa United. Okechukwu, Friday and Olisema all came close to scoring from half chances.
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.
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