BY SAMMY WEJINYA.
The stand out fixture of the 2019 AITEO Cup quarter finals will be played on Friday at the Dipo Dina Stadium, Ijebu-Ode.
Eight sides, Kano Pillars, Rivers United, Aklosendi, Lobi Stars, Niger Tornadoes, Smart City, Bendel Insurance and Calabar Rovers are still in the running to claim the prestigious diadem but only one will be left standing in the end.
The AITEO Cup has been severally described as the scourge of the giants and the delight of the minnows but one of the last eight fixtures seems too close to call.
Lobi Stars and their war cry
Lobi Stars and Rivers United will go toe to toe in a high profile clash for a right to reach the semifinals of Nigeria’s oldest football competition on Friday.
The Makurdi club have been slowly but steadily going about their business in the competition.
They beat Kebbi United 1-0 in the round of 64 before following it up with a 2-0 win over Enugu Rangers in a feisty round of 32 contest at the Bako Kontagora Stadium, Minna.
In the round of 16, the Makurdi club came from a goal down to overpower Abia Warriors 3-1 at the Akure Township
Lobi will however come up against their sternest test yet when they meet an in-form Rivers United side that have scored the most goals (of all the eight sides still left in the competition).
United have also yet to concede in the competition but spokesman of the Lobi club, Agbo Igoche believes the Makurdi outfit will be successful on Friday.
“The objective for Lobi Stars now is to win the AITEO Cup since we failed in winning the league title,” he told the official Rivers United website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
“The two sides know themselves so well so it’s going to be a very good game of football, quite explosive.
“These are two very good sides but I think Lobi Stars will win 2-0,” he predicted.
Rivers United; a force of nature
Rivers United is the most in-form team still left in the 2019 AITEO Cup.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ have been irresistible and steamrolled their way into the quarter finals of the competition playing some wonderfully open, aesthetic and effective football.
A 4-0 win in the round of 64 over FC Timberloader in Lafia was followed up with a classy 3-0 dismantling of pre-tournament favourites, Akwa United in Enugu in the round of 32.
In the round of 16, United tamed Warri Wolves 2-0 and have now scored nine goals while conceding none in their previous three matches.
Technical manager of United, Stanley Eguma is understandably in bullish form ahead of Friday’s contest.
“We are ready for any team that comes our way. We know Lobi is a big club and we have respect for them.
“However, as it stands now, we are determined to crush any team that comes our way.
“The players are in high spirits and we are ready to forge ahead and move into the next stage of the competition,” he said.