The Flying Antelopes who last won the competition in 1983 were made to work very hard before beating hard fighting Nasarawa United at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano for the first ticket to the final.
Just barely four minutes after the game started Enugu Rangers were already trailing after Nasarawa United’s Nojeem Olukokun capitalised on their sloppy defending to stab home the curtain raiser and 26 minutes later they made it 2-0 after they benefitted from their opponents’ defensive mix up.
It was as if the Solid Miners were coasting home to their second appearance in the final of the Federation Cup but things soon changed unexpectedly when Rangers were able to reduce the goals deficit on the stroke of halftime through Ugonna Uzochukwu.
The Flying Antelopes got the equaliser in the 69th minute through Ugochukwu Ugwuoke before further goals from Uzochukwu for his second goal of the game in the 71st minute and Godwin Zaki in the 79th minute ensured that the comeback was completed with aplomb in Kano.
In the second semi-final played at the Agege Stadium, Lagos, Kano Pillars emerged as the 2018 Federation Cup finalists after another closely fought battle against neighbours, Katsina United.
Sai Masu Gida seemed to have the game under their control when they raced into a two-goal lead through Junior Lokosa who benefitted from a deflection in the 13th minute and Nzube Anaezemba who scored a cracker from about 30 yards in the 62nd minute. But just like the other semi-final encounter, the complexion of the game changed dramatically a few minutes later.
The Chanji Boys reduced the deficit in the 69th minute through Timothy Danladi who halved the deficit after his initial effort from the penalty spot was saved by David Obiazor and Chinedu Ajanah ensured the comeback was achieved 10 minutes after their first goal when he reacted faster through a powerful header off a corner kick taken by Joshua Agboola.
There was no further goal in the final 11 minutes and in the added on time and the game had to be decided by penalties.
Kano Pillars proved to be more effective with their spot kicks as they got all four correctly but Destiny Ashadi and Timothy Danladi fluffed their penalty kicks with only Obinna Eleje having the honour of converting from 12 yards to ensure that Sai Masu Gida progressed to the final 4-1 on penalties.
In the only Women’s Federation Cup semi-final fixture decided on Wednesday at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, Ibom Angels cruised to their second consecutive final when they outwit Edo Queens 2-0.
The second semi-final will now be decided on Friday in Enugu between Rivers Angels and Bayelsa Queens after the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation on Wednesday threw out the protest from Sunshine Queens on the case of double registration filed on Yetunde Adeboyejo and Alice Ogebe of Rivers Angels. Sunshine Queens had earlier lost 2-0 to the Port Harcourt Ladies in one of the quarter-final matches decided recently.
The final of the men’s Federation Cup will hold on October 24 at the Asaba Township Stadium between Enugu Rangers and Kano Pillars who will be chasing the sixth and historic first title respectively.
Pillars best outing in recent time was in 2012 when they managed to get to the semi-final but they were stopped by Lobi Stars who went ahead to lose 2-1 to Heartland in the final in Lagos while Rangers are staging a return to the final for the first time since 2007.
Ibom Angels will wait in the wing for the winner between Rivers Angels and Bayelsa Queens to decide the eventuality of the Women’s Federation Cup final which comes up at the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa on October 23.