Niger Tornadoes, Kano Pillars, Rivers United, and Calabar Rovers are through to the semifinals of the 2019 FA Cup sponsored by Aiteo.
Five teams from the recently concluded Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season and three lower division teams on Friday battled in the quarterfinals across four match venues.
At Ilorin township stadium, Niger tornadoes engaged Smart City FC in a duel. The Lagos-based giant killers who are already responsible for the demise of League champions Enyimba and Shooting Stars found themselves heavily struck by a tornado of penalties after regulation time ended in a stalemate.
Niger Tornadoes coach fielded a strong side that had Mustapha Aliko in goal as he wouldn’t want to give up his chance of a continental ticket, after a dismal league season. Smart City could not convert all five kicks from the spot, unlike their opponents who were finalists in 2017. 5-4 it ended on penalties spelling the end of the road for the Lagos Boys.
Rivers United also clinched a semifinal spot after seeing out Lobi stars with a 5 – 3 win on penalties. Both sides played like houses on fire but none could find the back of the net for the entirety of regulation time.
Coach Stanley Eguma will be proud of his late substitutes who were key to the team’s triumph over Lobi Stars during the spot kicks. With barely three minutes left of regulation time, Eguma brought in barely known goaltender Darlington Ovunda for Akande Abiodun and took off Bright Onyedikachi for “penalty expert” Chigozie Ihunda.
Ovunda will go on to be the hero of the day after saving Sikiru Alimi’s spot-kick and stepping up to score his, after teammates Konan Ruffin, Temple Emekayi, Ihunda, and Bakary Bamba had scored from the spot.
Victory for Rivers United means they will face Niger tornadoes in the semifinals of the oldest football competition in the country.
Meanwhile, in the confluence town of Lokoja, another top-tier side was ousted as Bendel Insurance lost 4-5 on penalties to Calabar Rovers. Insurance – a resurgent team – will have a season to forget having also been relegated from a league they waited over a decade to make a return, and will now watch a lower division side move up the rung at their expense.
Calabar Rovers continue their smooth sail having already eliminated Plateau United in previous rounds and are poise to face another NPFL side in Kano Pillars in the semifinals.
In the city of Kaduna, Kano Pillars easily eased past Aklosendi FC. A first half brace from Adamu Rashaqqu and an own goal and a Salisu Mustapha strike was all Pillars needed to see off the Lafia based side.
2019 AITEO CUP QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:
Kano Pillars 4-0 Aklosendi
Niger Tornadoes 0(5-4)0 Smart City
Lobi Stars 0(3-5)0 Rivers United
Bendel Inurance 0(4-5)0 Calabar Rovers
AITEO CUP SEMI-FINALS FIXTURES:
Kano pillars vs Calabar Rovers
Rivers United vs Niger Tornadoes