Reigning Federation Cup Champions, FC Ifeanyi Ubah on Wednesday emerged winners of the 2017 NFF Charity Cup after seeing off 2016 Premier League Champions Rangers Int'l in a thrilling encounter which saw a 10-man FC Ifeanyi Ubah defeat the flying antelopes 4-3 in penalty shootout after a playing out a scoreless 90 minutes at the Abuja National Stadium.
The Charity Cup match which is staged between the winners of the Nigeria Professional Football League and NFF Federation Cup winners served as a curtain raiser for the 2016/2017 league season which kicks off this weekend.
Poised to lift a second trophy in as many years of its existence, FC Ifeanyi Ubah led by Coach Yaw Preko fielded a side with a blend of the team's core from last season and the high profile additions made to the team during the transfer market. The Anambra Warriors side captained by Adeleye Olamilekan had Super Eagles Goalie Ikechukwu Ezenwa returning to the team set up alongside Kojo Baah, Elu Wilson, Ngoma Luamba, Oni Jimoh and Tamen Medrano. New acquisitions Prince Aggreh, King Osanga, Adou Blaise and Yaya Kone also got the coach's nod.
The first half commenced on a very cagey note with the two sides cancelling each other's attacking moves as Rangers exhibited more fluidity via darting runs, good ball control and exchanges by the likes of former Enyimba forward Daniel Etor, Obinna Nwobodo and Omoniwari Fortune. The flying Antelopes came close to getting the opener in the 30th minute as FC Ifeanyi Ubah Goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa was caught napping while chasing a loose ball in the box. However, Fortune Omoniwari's header in the ensuing melee was well over the bar. Three minutes later, left full back Kojo Baah got his marching orders after an argument with the assistant referee 2 which resulted in a second booking after bagging one in the 5th minute for a similar action.
The second half started in a totally different fashion as the warriors came out all guns blazing. The numerical disadvantage for the Anambra Warriors was literally unfelt with Yaya Kone, Jimoh Obi and Prince Aggreh creating gilt-edged chances begging to be finished. The Anambra warriors suffered another setback when Captain Olamilekan Adeleye was forced to give way to Stephen Eze due to injury. Rangers goalie, Nana Bonsu made sure he preserved parity after pulling off a wonderful save to deny Prince Aggreh after an excellent volley from Ngoma's pin-point pass. Substitute Seka Pascal who was introduced in the 76th minute made an immediate impact as he teed up Prince Aggreh who unleashed a powerful shot with Antelopes' Goalkeeper Nana Bonsu to the rescue yet again. The referee brought the match to an end with penalty kicks deciding the victor in which FC Ifeanyi Ubah triumphed with a 4-3 win after Aggreh dispatched the winning penalty kick with aplomb.
In his reaction, Chairman of the club, Chukwuma Ubah thanked the lads for the composure, resilience and doggedness shown by the players despite being a man down. The chairman who had an evening session to felicitate with the players urged them to do more starting with the game against Kano Pillars on the opening day of the League season on Saturday. He concluded the session with a message from the President Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, who rewarded the team with the sum of One million for their victorious outing.
Reacting also, Coach Yaw Preko who was in a very bullish mood expressed his delight at the display and victory. "This win will serve as a springboard for many more to come", Preko said. He concluded by assuring fans of a wonderful and successful season as he believes the team is fully prepared to face the physical and mental rigors of playing both on the local and continental scene.
The Nigerian Federation Cup and Charity Cup winners who will fly the country's flag in the 2017 CAF Confederation Cup will now head to Kano for their opening match of the league season against Kano Pillars on Saturday at the Sani Abacha Stadium Kano.