Enugu Rangers coach Gbenga Ogunbote has disclosed why he introduced goalkeeper Nana Bonsu in place of Femi Thomas in their Aiteo Cup victory over Kano Pillars on Wednesday.
Rangers staged a thrilling comeback from three goals down to beat Kano Pillars on penalties and win their first Nigerian Cup since 1983 on Wednesday evening.
Pillars looked to be cruising to their first-ever Cup triumph when they led 3-0 with just thirteen minutes to play at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba.
However, the introduction of Nana Bonsu changed the dynamics of the game as Kevin Itoya pulled a goal back to give Rangers a glimmer of hope before Chidera Ezeh made it 3-2, and substitute Ajani Ibrahim’s brave diving header restored parity in injury-time.
Nana Bonsu managed to save two penalties during the shoot-outs before defender Isaac Loute completed the Rangers revival by scoring the decisive penalty to clinch the coveted trophy 4-2.
Speaking with Daily Trust after the historic comeback, Ogunbote said it was surprising to the technical team how his team easily conceded the goals through their carelessness.
“We had careless moments and there is nothing we can do. It happens in football, he said.
He further stated that he substituted goalkeeper, Femi Thomas because he lost concentration in the game.
“The first keeper is a great goalkeeper. He switched off after conceding the first two goals”.
“I was thinking as we were two goals down, we could manage it so we could bring in field players to get our goals. But when I realised he was off mentally, I had to take him off. He even told ‘coach, I have to come out’,” he said.
Ogunbote praised Kelvin Itoya for leading the comeback with his screamer and making his impact felt after coming on as a substitute.
“Itoya is a joker and for obvious reasons I bring him in games and has worked for me,” Ogunbote noted.
He decried the manner at which his team in recent past have always had to win games the hard way.
Rangers will represent Nigeria in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup after claiming their sixth Nigerian Cup title and pocketing a cash prize of N25 million ($69,000).