Coach Abdu Maikaba has told SCORENigeria Akwa United were deserved winners of this year’s Aiteo Cup even though they were not at their best, while his Niger Tornadoes counterpart, Abubakar Bala, insisted his team were unlucky on the final day.
Former science school teacher Maikaba clinched his first-ever major trophy in Nigeria after Akwa United defeated Tornadoes 3-2 on penalties Sunday night.
“It was a deserved victory and sweet celebration for the people of Akwa Ibom State,” Maikaba told SCORENigeria
“We thank God we won at the end of the day even though we did not play to our full capacity, that is football for you.
“But we are delighted we achieve our aim as a team. It shows all the efforts by the state government, management, backroom staff, technical team, players and the fans were not in vain.”
He added: “We have reason to celebrate because after we lost out narrowly from picking a continental ticket in the NPFL, we fought hard to redeem our image by winning the Aiteo Cup.
“Everything is now history. I don’t want to discuss a way forward now, I just want to celebrate this moment, it was a really a marathon race but Allah has put a smile on our face as a team.”
Tornadoes coach Bala said they could have repeated the cup triumph the Minna outfit last achieved in 2000 had they been a little luckier.
“We gave it our best, but we were unlucky not to have wrapped it up before the penalty shootout,” lamented the young coach to SCORENigeria
“We were the better side, but couldn’t convert the few chances we created and in the end we were punished by losing the penalty shootout.
“All the same, I salute the boys for giving Akwa United a fight because most of them were playing a big match like this for the first time and they tried.
“Also, as a coach I am glad that in my first full season in charge I took my team to the final of the most prestigious tournament in the country.”
By Kola Daniel in Lagos