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Resurgent Heartland FC pip Akwa United in Owerri

By: Oham Precious

Two second-half goals by Samuel Nnoshiri and Pascal Eze was enough to give Heartland FC the victory in a matchday 6 Nigerian Professional Football League fixture with Akwa United. Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu’s Heartland side engaged an incredible comeback after trailing at the break courtesy of Mfon Udoh’s 33rd-minute opener for the visitors.

Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu ringed only one change to the side that were defeated to Rivers United in the last game – Chidiebere Ajoku replaced Adachi Emmanuel while Coach Kennedy Boboye made fives changes to his side.

The ‘Naze Millionaires’ started on a good footing with Bright Onyedikachi and Samuel Nnoshiri having a sight at goal while Akwa United dictated play with a quarter an hour played. The first clear-cut chance of the game came to the visitors in the 22nd minute. Skipper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, left his box to make a clearance but was caught off by Ubong Friday who tried to score an improbable. The kick by the winger was cleared by Kenneth Ikwugbado to deny Mfon Udoh who raced forward to utilize the opportunity. Moments later, Bright Onyedikachi dazzled in the Akwa box and ping across to Chidiebere Ajoku who failed to connect his header to the goal.

On the 31st minute, Ubong Friday was left unmarked in the box to unleash a left-footed shot that went whiskers away from the goal. Two minutes later, Akwa United broke the deadlock as former NPFL’s top scorer, Mfon Udoh registered his first goal of the season with a solo finish courtesy of a defensive mix-up in the Heartland’s defense. Towards the halftime break, the duo of Ndifreke Effiong and Mfon Udoh failed to hit past Ezenwa with poor finishing after some piece of poor defending by the host.

The host upped their game at the restart with Chidiebere Ajoku finding Ayeoluwa Adetola whose header went wide on the 47th minute. Diminutive pocket-sized winger, Bright Onyedikachi, was hauled down in the box by Morice Chukwu for a penalty to the host on the 49th minute. Samuel Nnoshiri made no mistake to convert from the spot for the equalizer on the 52nd minute.

With 25 minutes left on the clock, a glaring chance to restore his side’s lead was wasted as Mfon Udoh failed to beat Ezenwa from close range after a sumptuous pass was laid onto his path. Akwa United was punished for their inability to be clinical in front of goal when Pascal Eze scored the winner with 12 minutes left after he beat the offside trap to poke home past the goalkeeper. The result made it two successive home wins for Heartland FC who started the season horrendously.

Coach Christian Obi said Heartland FC is a work in progress in his post-match presser. ” It’s a great game today, before the game I said Heartland will pick the maximum points. It’s a work in progress and we will keep pushing higher until we get better.”

Samuel Nnoshiri who equalized from the spot for Heartland FC and his second goal of the season has this to say. ” I’m happy for the goal. We did well as a team, hopefully, Heartland will make it to the top three at the end of the season.”

The visiting gaffer, Kennedy Boboye, blamed the officiating for the loss. ” It’s a shame in Nigerian football that we are still at this level. Any team that wants to win should win on a very good platform, not by cheating. I’m highly disappointed in the referees. The two goals shouldn’t have stood.” Boboye said

“My players were playing according to the game plan and I strongly believe if my players stood on the line, the referee would have given a penalty or an offside goal for them to equalize or win Akwa United.” He concluded

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