Nigeria’s national football team will have representation in both the Europa and Conference League finals this season.
While the trio of Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey qualified for the Europa League final with Rangers, one cap Super Eagles forward, Cyril Dessers, qualified for the Conference League final with Dutch Club, Feyenoord.
At the Ibrox Stadium, Aribo and Bassey were on the starting lineup as Rangers romped to a 3-1 win against RB Leipzig in the return leg of their semifinal contest.
Having lost the first leg by a lone goal, it was Rangers who progressed into the final of the UEFA Europa League with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.
Aribo was deployed in a three-man attack along with Ryan Kent and Wright, while Bassey functioned primarily in his traditional central defensive position.
Rangers needed just 18 minutes to cancel the deficit from the first leg and it was right back James Tavernier that broke the deadlock for the host; poking home from close range a Ryan Kent’s cross into the box.
Glen Kamara doubled the Gers’ lead six minutes after.
Aribo could have made it three for the rampaging Rangers team minutes after but he missed a gilt-edge chance that could have extinguished any hopes of a comeback for Leipzig.
The Nigerian star was pulled off before the end of the first half when the ball hit him hard on the face and even required medical attention.
Aribo was substituted at the end by Zambian striker, Fashion Sakala.
As Rangers were battling to defend their two-goal lead, Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun came off the bench in the 59th minute in place of Ryan Jack
Just as they struck late in the first leg in Germany, RB Leipzig‘s Christopher Nkunku produced an astonishing half volley that made it 2-1 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate.
However, John Lundstram ensured Rangers will be playing in their first European final in 14 years when he scored to make it 3-1.
Now in the final, Aribo, Balogun and Bassey will hope they can follow the footsteps of Samuel Chukwueze, who won last season with Villareal when Rangers take on Entriat Frankfurt on May 18.
While it was all joy for the Nigerian players in the Europa League, it was mixed fortunes in the Conference League where there was a heartbreak for the Leicester City trio of Kelechi Iheanacho, Ademola Lookman and injured Wilfred Ndidi.
The Foxes were beaten to the final ticket by Jose Mourinho’s Roma, who won 1-0 at the Stadium Olympico on Thursday night and qualified with a 2-1 aggregate scoreline.
Dessers, however, pulled through with Feyenoord as his Dutch Club qualified with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline over Olympique Marseille after Thursday’s barren draw in France.
WATCH: Governor Yahaya Bello’s Roadmap to Hope 2023
Support PREMIUM TIMES’ journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Why women cheat: what every Nigerian man should know