Enyimba win dramatic Federation Cup final after beating Warri Wolves on penalties
Enyimba twice came from behind to beat Warri Wolves and win the 2013 Federation Cup in a dramatic 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory after the score was drawn at 2-2 at the end of normal time inside the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
Warri Wolves thought they had earned their first ever silverware when Joseph Osadiaye scored in the 79th minute after Bright Esieme had cancelled out Musa Najare's opener, but Ugwu Uwadiegwu's sublime free-kick ten minutes from full time took the pulsating cup final into penalties.
The two league games between the sides had ended goalless and the score at full time meant none had eventually gained the upper hand but on this occasion, a winner had to emerge.
Shooting towards the boisterous Enyimba supporters end, 25-year-old substitute Fidelis Saviour scored his side's fifth spot kick to give The Elephants their third cup triumph after victories in 2005 and 2009.
This was after Wolves had missed their third kick, no thanks to Azubuike Egwueke whose tame effort was easily saved by Femi Thomas. It denied Solomon Ogbeide the chance to become the first man to lead the club to glory.
There had been personal pride at stake in the game and with none of the two teams wanting to suffer the anguish of defeat, this made for an enthralling contest, right from the start.
Enyimba, in their new all white kit were at their dominant best at the beginning, neatly passing the ball around but pressing incessantly whenever they lost possession. Rasheed Olabiyi and Ayo Saka were winning key battles in midfield but The Elephants lacked the inspiration needed to slice through a very physical Wolves backline that included Monday Osagie and Egwueke.
When they did, the two opportunties fell to Sibi Gwar but he wasted them. First forcing a save out of Oda before blasting well wide over the cross-bar, much to the agony of thousands of Enyimba supporters in the stands.
Warri Wolves were admittedly on the back foot for most of the early periods but went in front in the 23rd, courtesy of a goal from the tournament's top scorer, Musa Najare who prodded home Azubuike Egwueke's goal-bound header.
The Elephants were stunned and struggled to reassert control but Solomon Ogbeide's men were having none of it and they took their one nil lead into the break. Before the end of the first half though, Salisu Yusuf had replaced Ayo Saka with Chimezie Amanfor and this change reenergized Enyimba's struggling frontline immediately.
The double pivot of Rasheed Olabiyi and Sokari Kingsley in midfield allowed Ugwu Uwadiegwu and Bright Esieme to stretch the Wolves defence by making overlapping runs down the left and right flanks respectively and these persistent runs, that posed significant threat to the Seasiders, soon paid off.
Two minutes after the hour mark, Bright Esieme who was having an incredible afternoon latched onto a lose ball at the edge of the Wolves box. He controlled it and fired home an unstoppable right foot shot from inside the eighteen that Okiemute Oda couldn't keep out.
It was a worthy equalizer but just as the drumming of the Enyimba supporters grew louder, Joseph Osadiaye silenced it when he reacted first after goalkeeper Femi Thomas couldn't hold Najare's shot and poked the ball in.
Having worked so hard in the second half, it was a cruel blow to The Elephants but instead of bowing their heads, accepting defeat, they showed they were prepared to fight to prevent a repeat of the 2010 and 2011 finals by pressing forward in numbers and denying their opponents space and time on the ball.
Three minutes after Osadiaye's goal, Enyimba were on level terms again, this time by Ugwu Uwadiegwu whose superb free-kick whizzed past the wall and past Oda before he could react, forcing the game to penalties.
There were nine successful penalties but history was going to be decided by Azubuike Egwueke, Warri Wolves third penalty taker whose spot kick to the left of Femi Thomas was low, soft and comfortably saved by the goalkeeper.
It gave Fidelis Saviour the chance to live up to his name when he stepped up to take the decisive fifth kick for Enyimba. And as cool as you'd ever see, Saviour scored to end the dreams of Warri Wolves.
Enyimba, twice denied in 2010 and 2011 have on this occasion, rallied to victory and ensure they take the 2013 Federation Cup trophy back to Aba.