Heartland, 3SC, Bendel Insurance, Lobi Stars and MFM FC have been bundled out of this year’s AITEO Cup in Nigeria at the round of 64 stage following defeats on Sunday and Monday.
The big guns were fortunate to enjoy the luck of the Cup draw which kept them apart and pit them against the minnows.
However it all started on Monday with Heartland who have been off-colour all season.
Heartland who were Cup winners in 1998, 2011 and 2012 continued with their poor run this season as they fell to lower league side Cofine FC. The underdogs took the lead through Charles Mboutidem on 17 minutes before Heartland laboured to level matters five minutes to half-time thanks to Alex Kouakou’s goal.
But the Ikot Ekpene club edged Heartland 4-2 on penalties to progress to the next stage and that summed up a dismal campaign for the former Nigerian champions who were fortunate to escape relegation after the top division was ended after Matchday 24 owing to difficulty in meeting up with the original schedule.
Eight-time Cup winners 3SC suffered upset in their round of 64 match after they played out a 0-0 draw in regulation time with Supreme Court FC. The Ibadan club lost 4-5 on penalties.
Another three-time Cup champions Bendel Insurance whose stocks have dropped considerably in recent years added to the number of casualties of big boys when a third-tier side Remo Stars Feeders saw them off. Insurance lost 0-1 following a Pius Freeman strike on 28 minutes.
Top division side and last season’s runners-up in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), MFM FC, did not go past the round of 64. They lost 4-3 on penalties to Sokoto United after a goalless draw in 90 minutes.
On Tuesday, Lobi Stars who finished top of the pile in the NPFL standings this season suffered the biggest upset. After a 1-1 draw with Zaria club Standard FC in open play they lost 2-3 on penalties.
Lobi’s defeat have drawn mixed reactions among followers of club football in Nigeria. Most are worried if the Makurdi who won the Cup in 2003 can do well in the CAF Champions League in the 2018/19 season.
Round of 64 big winners
For title-holders Akwa United, they started strongly by sending out a message to other clubs with a 7-0 thumping of Hope of Glory FC. Nigeria Under-20 midfielder Aniekeme Asuquo helped himself to a hat-trick while forwards Victor Mbaoma and Ezekiel Bassey scored two goals each.
Rivers United, who have won the Cup as Dolphins FC, put in a commanding performance on Tuesday against Gusau Eleven. Bernard Ovoke was the star of the show as he netted four goals. Frederick Obomate and Malachi Ohawume weighed in with a goal each.
Other NPFL clubs that also progressed to the next round are Kano Pillars, Plateau United, Go Round FC and Enyimba.
Still to come
The round of 64 will be rounded off on Tuesday with top division sides, Enugu Rangers, Nasarawa United and Wikki Tourists squaring up against Niger Tornadoes Feeders, George Turnah and Crime Busters FC respectively.
© The Predictor NG