Nasarawa United coach Bala Nikyu has expressed disappointment after failing to secure continental football for the Solid Miners next season.
Nikyu’s side were in contention for a top 3 finish until the final day of the just-concluded Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season, when they were beaten 3-1 by Abia Warriors, and missed out on a place on the continent via the NPFL.
On the other hand, victory in Sunday’s final of the Aiteo Cup would have guaranteed the Lafia-based side a place in next season’s CAF Confederation Cup, but they, however, lost to Nigeria National League (NNL) outfit Bayelsa United 4-3 via penalties, after regulation time ended 2-2 at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium in Benin, Edo State.
It is a sad end to a rather impressive campaign that saw Nasarawa United emerge as the highest-scoring team in the NPFL (with 55 goals) last season and their striker Silas Nwankwo finishing the season as the top scorer with 19 goals, same as Charles Atshimene of Akwa United, who scored more penalties.
Reacting to his side’s loss to Bayelsa United on Sunday, the former Wikki Tourists gaffer said the result was totally unexpected, blaming ‘ill-luck’ for the defeat.
“The truth is that the game has been played and it turned out the way we never expected,” he said.
“Actually, based on the outcome of our performance during the season, before the league season ended, I was thinking that out of these two competitions – the league and the Challenge Cup (Aiteo Cup), we can pick one.
“And actually, the match today (Sunday) was down to ill-luck. It was a good match, especially when we got the second goal, I was thinking we can even add more goals. Unfortunately, the equalizer came and it ended up in that 2-2 draw.
“And the penalties, the way they came, if it is the issue of penalties, nobody is perfect in penalty kicks.”
It is the second time the Solid Miners have lost in the final of the Aiteo Cup, after going down via penalties as well to FC IfeanyiUbah in 2016.