Finally, at 4.45pm local time, as Maraina Toba James set off to celebrate his hat trick clinching goal submerged by his teammates and the Awo boys of Great Ife broke into chants of “we go kill dem o.” Coach Chike had forgotten he was still on the pitch as he showcased his shaku shaku skills. There was proof that OAU Giants despite the stutter and luck in the previous round that the OAU Giants were not here to joke around in the 2018 HiFL® season.
It was a euphoric and nerve-shredding finale at the end; and these are the moments, surely, when the supporters of OAU Giants could be forgiven for daring to dream that something special is building, something exhilarating and rare. Yes, it would be dangerous to get too carried away but right here, right now, they are in the driving seat and it's really their tie to lose.
Indeed, on the day the VC led the students en masse to support the team, stars aligned for the Giants as they took an early lead after a fine strike by inspirational captain, Seyi James in the 8th minute. However, the Tillers forced their way back into contention with a goal by Ogbole Emmanuel in the 15th minute. The ding-dong battle continued with the Giants breaching the Tillers defence next with a well taken penalty by Toba James in the 40th minute before HiFL® 2018 top scorer Ebuka David restored parity once more with a penalty of his own in the 45th minute. In the second half, UAM Tillers started like a house on fire and shot into the lead in the 62nd minute with another goal by goal machine Ebuka David, another penalty 5 minutes later brought the scores level again for the third time. As the Tillers started to tire late in the game, OAU Giants began to stamp their authority on the game and soon began to peel away with two goals from midfield maestro Oripelaye Kehinde and Man of the Match Toba James. It was indeed a titanic battle as the irresistible force that is OAU Giants were successfully in downing the previously Immovable object – UAM Tillers. The match will surely be remarkable in the annals of the HiFL® competition for the remarkable feats of goal scoring by both teams as they broke the record for most goals in a match.
In the other Semifinal clash, UNILORIN Warriors claimed a narrow first leg win in the race for the finals in the match against the UNICAL Malabites after a well taken second half strike by danger man Kabil Akanbi was enough to down the Malabites in front of a full house at the UNILORIN Sports Center. Before the game, both teams had acknowledged that they were evenly matched and indeed they would both have to be at their best on the day to prevail. These predictions were soon proved correct as both teams battled to a standstill heading into the break. A moment of genius in the second half was what it took in a game of fine margin for the Warriors to draw first blood.
All eyes now would turn to Markudi and Calabar on the 17th of October, as the teams would be returning to utilize a second chance that would either push them forward in the fight for the ultimate trophy or relegate them to back seat and play for 3rd place in the Loser’s final.
The battles lines have been drawn and all that remains if for the gladiators to stand and be counted!