Ayo Saka was a hero and a villain as his 19th solo effort helped Lobi Stars advanced to the final of the 2017 Gold Cup Preseason Tournament on Tuesday in Ilorin after defeating Katsina United 1-0 in the first semi final fixture played at the Kwara State Stadium.
Both sides started the encounter on a high with Thomas Adesina Lobi Stars had a chance to score the first goal but his effort went inches wide.
Minutes after, Adeshina had another chance from Anthony Okputu but he was unlucky to hand his team the lead.
Ayo Saka later put the Markurdi-based club ahead in the 19th minute with a solo effort after connecting a beautiful pass from Cletus Itodo.
The 23rd minute of the pulsating match presented an opportunity to Kastina United to level up but Agboola Joshua failed to bury his chance from a goal mouth scramble.
Coach Abdullahi Usman Biffo tutored side continued to mount pressure on the Stars but John Eshua Lawrence did a yeoman’s job pulling series of great saves to keep the scoreline intact.
The two teams were reduced to ten men in the second half following unsportsmanlike conduct from Ayo Saka and Samuel Tswanya, the center referee issued them a straight red card.
In the closing minutes of the game, the Chanji Boys had a glorious chance to equal the scoreline through Stephen Adah but he missed the opportunity.
The game ended with Lobi Stars securing their second consecutive Gold Cup final.
Speaking after the match Katsina United manager, Abdullahi Biffo said” I didn’t see this defeat as a disappointment because like I said our coming here was not to win but to test the our level of preparations for the season, but reaching this far shows we are closer to where we want to be.”
“I want to commend the boys for adjusting to my philosophy and I want to commend the organizers of this tournament, it has assist clubs to check their level of readiness for the season,” he said.
Chief Coach of Lobi Stars, Ogenyi Evans on his part told Gold Cup Media that “We are happy to reach another final consecutively, it was a good match and we are happy with the way the boys played and hold up during the difficult moments.
“All the semifinalists are potential winners of the tournament but we want to try as much as possible to win it which I believe it will be an added impetus apart from using the tournament to prepare for the new league season,” said an obviously elated Lobi Stars handler Evans Ogenyi.
Lobi Stars will await the winner between Niger Tornadoes and Kano Pillars to determine their opponent in the final to be decided on Friday.