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TAGUIG City — After two seasons, the Nigerian kings are back on top.
Rangers F.C. Philippines edged defending champion Manila Digger F.C., 2-1 in a thrilling Season 6 finale that went to penalty kickout and reclaim the AIA 7s Football League Men’s Division 1 title on Sunday, November 27 at the McKinley Hill Stadium.
Formerly known as the Super Eagles which copped three of the first four titles in the 7s, the Nigerian-laden squad relied on Christopher Olisa as he delivered the decisive blow in the third round of the intense shootout, handing his club its fourth overall title in six seasons.
They didn’t believe in us but God did. I am over the moon right now. We know is not going to be an easy season but we were prepared and ready,” team manager Danny Kross said.
“During the group stages, we had ups and downs, but we know the moment we got the playoffs, no team will beat us.”
After a scoreless first half, Ogochugwu “Juel” Ebere delivered the opening goal for the Rangers, as he punched in a volley from a difficult angle just outside the box.
The Ayi Bimbo-coached squad then fended off chances from the Manila Digger throughout the latter half, appearing to be on its way to the win in regulation.
However, Ilemona Usman slotted in a late goal from close range after a scramble inside the box to equalize and eventually force extra time.
After both sides failed to score in the five-minute extension, the match went to a sudden-death penalty kickout. Ebere and Femi Ogunrinde’s attempts for the Rangers were both denied by Digger keeper Michael Asong.
But recent KAMPEON 7s Cup best scorer Stephen Appiah was also stopped while Marco Cauyong’s try ricocheted off the left post.
That set up Olisa in his attempt and the midfielder delivered even as Elias Ugwu’s placement try to salvage a fourth round for both sides missed.
“We have a mixture of experience and youth and we have been in these situations since the first season. Our experience was vital we used our experience to get to the finals and eventually became champions,” Kross added.
“We conceded only one goal in the playoffs, that speaks volumes.”
In their run to the top, the Rangers dominated Middle Beast F.C., 7-0 in the quarterfinals and then ended Sino F.C.’s unbeaten streak with an impressive 3-0 victory in the semifinals.
The victory was also fitting revenge as Manila Digger bested the Rangers last season in the semifinals.
In Men’s Division 2 action, Black Amigos put on a brilliant showing against Dan Matsunaga’s Resenha F.C., 4-1 to claim the crown previously owned by PAHA F.C.
Manila Digger’s third division group managed to take home some pride for the club, winning the Men’s Division 3 title via a come-from-behind 3-2 win against Mangtas F.C.
After falling to a 0-2 hole, Manila Digger converted three goals in the second half to complete the turnaround.
Photo by Mark Anthony Salibio/AIA 7’s Football League
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