BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
As the curtain officially falls on the 2017/18 Nigeria football season, no better duel than that of Kano Pillars facing Enugu Rangers would have been better.
Both crowd-pulling and honour seeking clubs meet in the Aiteo Cup final in Asaba, the 14th town to host a Nigeria cup final since 1945.
Rangers and Kano Pillars are not strangers to one another as they have met 15 times in the past seven years in the Nigerian elite league.
Statistics slightly favour the Kano side that had won eight of those clashes while Enugu Rangers had been victorious on six occasions. In between them, they drew once, the only encounter they had this year on February 25 in the Nigeria Professional League.
It was an epic match and it initially appeared Rangers were going to balance their head-to-head encounters with Kano Pillars as Godwin Aguda shot the home side ahead three minutes before half time.
But three minutes to full time, Junior Lokosa levelled up for Kano Pillars to put score lines at 1-1.
Their rivalries date back to 1990 when the professional football league debuted in Nigeria. That year, both teams won their respective home games with 1-0 score lines.
In the next season, the score lines also ended in draws – 0-0 in Kano and 1-1 in Enugu. Such score lines illustrate the fierce rivalry between the two Aiteo Cup finalists. It is the indication of the expected fireworks in Asaba.
Their recent confrontations also point at the same direction. Score lines are familiar. For instance, in the 2010/2011 season, each won their respective home matches 1-0.
In 2012, Rangers won 3-1 in Enugu, Kano Pillars also went for a two-goal margin win in Kano as the scores were 2-0.
The 2013 had a different picture as Rangers won 4-0 in Enugu while Kano Pillars managed a 2-1 win in the reciprocal fixture.
The following season, Rangers won 2-1 in Enugu, Kano Pillars also had a goal margin win, 3-2 in Kano. In 2015, each won their respective home matches, 2-1.
In 2016, it was 2-1 for Kano Pillars in Kano and 1-0 for Rangers in Enugu. Last season, Rangers beat Kano Pillars 3-1 in Enugu while Pillars won the reversed fixtures, 2-0 in Kano.
Both teams have had to struggle for years without success in the Nigeria national cup which had been played under different names. Kano Pillars only final match to date was in 1991 when they lost 3-2 to El Kanemi in the very first all-northern team final match-up.
For Rangers, after being the first club to win the trophy via penalty shootout in 1983, the team had struggled in vein, losing out in 1990, 2000, 2004 and 2007 final matches.
One of the two teams will certainly break the chains of ill luck this Wednesday.
Who then wins the Asaba clash for the Aiteo Cup?
HEAD-TO-HEAD SINCE 2010
P W D L F A
Kano Pillars 15 8 1 6 20 21
Enugu Rangers 15 6 1 8 21 20