LOBI VS AKWA: 2015 FEDERATION CUP PREVIEW

Lobi Stars players celebrate a recent victory
 By Zazi Bariza

On Sunday 15th November, it was a contest in which only one side was in dare need of spoils; but on 22nd November, just eight days after, it will be a fiercely fought battle between two sides.

One with so many similar experiences, trying to stage a return to where they are believed to belong; and the other a mere green horn per cup finals in Nigeria. Both will be gunning for the prestigious Nigerian Federation Cup shield.

The final of the Nigeria’s Federation Cup is here again. This time, it is an intriguing matchup between two sides that, in the just past domestic league season, struggled until the final day to keep top flight status.

Akwa United will come into this game without any cup final experience to recount while Lobi will be looking to relive their 2003 triumph, not forgetting losses in the 2005 and 2012 finals.

After losing 0-1 to Akwa Starlet in the Akwa Ibom state final,  the Promise Keepers, as United are fondly called, went on to dispatch Dalhatu United 6-0, before beating Peacemakers, Prime FC, Tornadoes Feeders and Nasarawa United. Save for the penalty shootout victory over Tornadoes Feeders, United’s journey to the final was relatively smooth.

Lobi Stars’ own path to the final was a tight rope. After a resounding 4-1 victory over Junior Spotlight in the round of 64, they had to depend on odd goals against Niger Tornadoes, BJ Foundation and Enugu Rangers, plus the penalty shootout win over Remo Stars in the round of 16.

THE COACHES: TENGER VS BARAJE

Lobi Stars’ Justin Tenger promised to draw the curtain on his lengthy coaching career after this game.

The vastly experience gaffer, has previously had stints at Nasarawa United, Niger Tornadoes, Gombe United, Wikki Tourists, Kwara United and of course, Akwa United.
Akwa United team line up
He will be hoping to draw the curtains on his coaching career with a Federation Cup medal dangling around his neck, and one factor that may ensure that is his knowledge of the Akwa United team, considering that the bulk of their current players worked under him when he was in charge two years ago.

Zachary Baraje of Akwa United will also come into the game with his own good share of experience. The former Enyimba, El Kanemi and Nasarawa United tinker man is quite aware of the continental ticket target set before him by his employers and, after woefully failing to achieve that via the league, now has a second chance to make a name for himself among soccer loving people of Uyo.

HEAD TO HEAD

Both sides are at par on head to head. Each team have won 7 of their last 14 meetings, leaving no draw. Lobi have scored 18, just one more than United.
The last 4 meetings have ended in 1-0 wins, with each side winning two.

PREDICTION

This looks like a game between two sides of pretty much equal strength.  As a result, except a goal comes early and brings disequilibrium, things might remain cagey all 90 minutes. But In any case, Lobi have shown greater discipline this season. Rigid but decisive on the offence, their back line is one of the toughest to break down.

Lobi Stars may edge it by the odd goal, as they have always done.


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