June 3rd, 2017 was a day to remember for Cullen FC as they beat DC Eagles Avengers in the final round to lift the SLN Challenge Cup.
After the pre-match ceremony had taken place, and the handshakes and hi-5’s between both teams was over, the players got straight down to business as soon as the referee blew the whistle.
Both teams were deadlocked in the first few minutes as they battled for supremacy. The first opportunity came in the 4th minute when a long ball from the middle was sent towards the Avengers defense line. As Cullen FC’s Yomi Ibagbeola made a move for the ball, he made a quick feinting move and the ball skipped right past the defender and all of a sudden, he was in a one-on-one situation with the keeper. He neatly dribbled the keeper and crashed the ball against the woodwork. There was a brief goal mouth scramble and the rebounded ball was again fired back into the post by Daddy Bazuaye. By then, the keeper was in a better position to catch the ball.
As the game progressed, an Avengers player was judged to have handled the ball a few yards after the half way line. As expected, going by his string of performances from Day 1 of the Tournament, Daddy Bazuaye stepped up to take the free kick. As he carefully placed the ball and took a few measured steps backwards, everyone seemed to watch in anticipation to determine what he was going to do. Surely, he wasn’t going to attempt a 45-yard free-kick …Or was he? The next few seconds seemed like moments frozen in time as he ran up to the ball and smashed a thunderous free-kick which kept travelling at an almost unbelievable trajectory through the air, past the outstretched hands of the keeper into the goal post! The crowd erupted in cheers and this goal basically set the stage for the rest of the game. Avengers were quite fortunate for the rest of first half, as there were several other missed opportunities by Cullen FC.
The second half kicked off with a greater sense of urgency from both teams. Avengers were able to respond with a goal which occurred due to an uncontested thrown ball into the box, which was eventually deflected by Mathias Oyedepo for his 4th goal of the Tournament.
In the 49th minute, a right-footed attempt by Dare Orepitan into the bottom right hand corner of the post required an acrobatic save by Gideon Bisong, who managed to dive low and deflect the ball with the tip of his outstretched fingers. Shortly afterwards, Cullen FC restored the lead with another goal, which was scored by Dare Orepitan as he took advantage of unmarked space in the 6-yard box to knock in a well-placed header from a corner kick.
Thereafter, Cullen FC went on to score a third goal from a fast-break. A quick pass from Kelechi Ike to Daddy Bazuaye caught the defenders unawares and he raced into the final third of the field. The breaking run was followed by a quick one-two pass with Yomi Ibagbeola around the last defender. This resulted in a one-on-one face-off with the keeper and he made no mistake by side-footing the ball beyond the keeper to notch his 5th goal of the Tournament.
The entire team, coaching staff, fans and family members of Cullen FC couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the Tournament as their team members won all individual awards, and lifted the 1st SLN Challenge Cup – thereby etching their names into the pages of history.
Individual Award Winners:
- Ugo Onyeabo – Safest Hands Award
- Daddy Bazuaye – Goal Machine Award