Lagos – It was a classy display by the male and female teams of Port Harcourt zone representing the South Region as they handed down a comprehensive defeat to their Kaduna counterparts in both categories at the on-going National Championship of the season 3 of the Airtel Rising Stars National U-17 Tournament.
The female team had set the tone for the final picture of the day when they ran away with a one nil victory over Kaduna Girls in the first semi-final match in the female category decided at the Agege Township Stadium.
The male team completed the round of victory 4-3 via penalty after playing out a one all draw during regulation time.
It was a game of one half each for the teams as they keenly contested for the ticket to play in the final of the Championship which ends on Sunday.
The Kaduna team, smarting from a 3-0 spanking of team Enugu in the quarter-final match decided yesterday, looked like they would carry the day as they clearly dominated play all through the first half.
Port Harcourt did well to curtail the many incursions into their vital areas despite having to play in their own half all the period.
The pendulum however, appeared to have swung in favour of team Port Harcourt as they resumed the second half with more decisive and coordinated play, turning the heat on their opponent whom they had pegged back to their own half.
Their efforts finally paid off when Olu Gabriel put them ahead in the ninth minute into the second half. He however, was booked for removing his shirt while celebrating.
This goal obviously prompted a reaction from the Kaduna team who equalized in the 15th minute through Aliu Isa. The team however, suffered a blow when Chima Kalu was shown a straight red card for leaving the pitch to change his boots without authorization from the referee.
In the second semi-final match decided between Lagos and Ibadan, it was Ibadan who showed more hunger to play in the finals. Ibadan converted 5 times to Lagos’s 4 after a one all draw during regulation time ensured the teams settled for penalties. Lagos had gone ahead in the 34th minute after goal keeper Ridwan Adeleke of Ibadan failed to parry over a shot from Ibrahim Idris. The joy of team Lagos was shortlived as Ajuwon Idris drew the leveller just a minute later
12 male and female teams totalling 192 players drawn from six zones across the nation are featuring in the three-day Championship which began on Friday.
The teams qualified for the three-day championship after featuring in the zonal championship phase where they had to see off strong competition for the national finals tickets from other equally good teams in their zones. They include Kaduna, Abuja, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Lagos, all of which have been featuring both in the male and female categories.
Tournament partners, Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON) and the Nigeria Football Coaches Association (NFCA) form an independent team of assessors including grassroots coaches to oversee technical concerns during the championship.
The Airtel Rising Stars U-17 Tourney, in its third year running, is a pan African initiative of Airtel Africa, designed to provide support for the development of football talents across African markets.