COUNTDOWN TO AITEO CUP FINAL: A MISTAKE PILLARS COACH MUSA SHOULD AVOID begin our daily countdown to the Aiteo Cup final as CLEMENT NWANKPA JR brings to the fore a tactic that could be Pillars Achilles heel.

A lot is at stake as Rangers and Kano Pillars square up for the Aiteo Cup final at the brand new Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba on October 24. A first grade facility hosting two traditional clubs, surely this should be a final to be remembered for many years to come.

The stakes are raised higher considering the fact that both teams are hungry for the title. Who will win this?

It will be down to the tactics. The two coaches must be up to the task. Ibrahim Musa for Pillars and Rangers’ Gbenga Ogunbote are two coaches who are worth their onions. How they approach the match will be key.

There is a difference between  a Cup final and a league game. One is a winner-takes-all scenario while the other could be prosecuted  with an eye on the next fixture.

The ability of these coaches to know the difference in both situations will be key. Incidentally, these are two experienced coaches who don’t need to be told the demands of the occasion.

At Pillars, Musa enjoys playing out from the back. It is for this reason that David Obiazo is the preferred first choice ahead of Danladi Isa.

In the business of the sweeping keeper, Obiazo is one of the best in the domestic scene.

His footworks are delights to watch and he enjoys those dribbles and shot passes to teammates. Sometimes he gets caught in possession but his coaches are unperturbed.

Obiazo enjoys dribbling opposing strikers.

Assistant  coach, Friday Christopher once told; “Obiazo is our own Ederson (Manchester City keeper).  We told him that if you dribble and lose the ball,  dribble again”.

He is central to the way the team plays and they are not willing to compromise that pattern.  They have an assemblage of midfielders willing to be with  the ball.

So when Obiazo is with the ball, he is never short of players who will be willing to receive  the ball. The likes of Nzube Anaezemba, Ikenna Hillary and Allassan Ibrahim will fall back to central defense positions to get the ball from Obiazo.

Pillars dominating possession is the platform needed to tee up the dangerous attacking duo of Nyima Nwagua and Junior Lokosa, arguably  the best attacking combo in the land.

As witnessed in the semi-final against Katsina United, Obiazo,  though a delight to behold dribbling and passing,  rarely does it without the clangers.

On a couple of occasions, he was caught in possession but Katsina failed to take advantage. Pillars may not be lucky against another team.

Will Musa stick to his tactic of playing out from the back or will he ditch it for the simple reason of getting the job done in Asaba? Will Musa chose to play beautiful football and entertain the crowd at the expense of an opportunity Pillars have yearned for since 1991 when they lost 2-3 to El-Kanemi in the final?

The fact is that Rangers’ coach,  Gbenga Ogunbote is experienced enough to know Pillars’ weakness and how to take advantage. This writer is also aware of some of Ogunbote’s assistants, who are cerebral enough to identify Pillars’ loophole if their boss doesn’t take note.

The Flying Antelopes have a scouting coach, Gabriel Ezema, whose assignment is to assemble tapes of every opponent, study and identify their strengths and weaknesses and transmit same to the head coach. For a team to be this detailed, no chances should be taken against them.

Pillars should expect Rangers to press high up the pitch in order to put pressure on the sweeping keeper, Obiazo. In the young Ugochukwu Ugwuoke and Bright Silas , Rangers have fast forwards who would run at Obiazo to force him into hurried passes or dribbles. The idea will be to force him into misdirected passes and try to pounce.

Will Musa fall for this? Will he vary his formations just to get the desired result? This is a final and there wouldn’t be any opportunity to remedy the situation on a latter day. It is yet to be known the next time Pillars will come this far. It has taken them 27 years to get to the final. Will they risk this chance with a sweeping keeper?

Playing out from the back could be Pillars undoing in this game. In the words of the great Pele; “No two matches are the same”. This occasion calls for carefulness and less gambles. It isn’t a league tie. It is a cup final.

“It is not he who danceth with her. It is he who taketh her home”.

Will Pillars choose to dance all night with this beautiful lady only for Rangers to take her home as soon as the party is over?  Will the Sai Masu Gida opt to keep it simple, play less to the gallery, forget about displaying their amazing dance steps to the lady and focus on taking her home?

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