Heartland FC of Owerri earned her first ever win over Abia Warriors after nine failed attempts in the NPFL.
To put it into a better perspective, Abia Warriors have never lost a league match against Heartland (6W 3D). As was reported in the match preview, the young Spartans, the technical crew, the passionate Heartland fans and even the very blade of grass at the Okigwe Stadium knew that pride was at stake as much as the three precious points whose worth cannot be quantified.
The stage was set for a pulsating cracker , evenly poised to put paid to five years of torment, torture and degradation from our younger brothers and noisy Neighbours.
Team Set Up
From the personnel set up by the working one, Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu, it was pretty easy to decipher the mind set of the gaffer especially with Onoja on the bench.
Ezenwa Ikechukwu manning the sticks keen on continuing his recent man of the match displays
Chidera Eze, Benjamin Francis, Jide Williams
Eze Pascal formed the backline
While Adetola Ayooluwa,
Nnamani Emmanuel where the midfield marshals selected on the day.
Sadiq Abubakar who seemed to have developed some chemistry with
Abiodun Thompson got the nod to start alongside Thompson and the debutant
Obioma Chukwuemeka completing the attacking trinity.
Heartland quickly made a statement of intent dictating the pace of the game, creating opportunities as well as some high pressing, closing down the passing channels of the visitors who rarely troubled Ikechukwu Ezenwa in goal .
The combination of Sodiq Abiodun and Chukwuemeka Obioma pegged the vastly experienced Austin Obarakpo and the Abia Warriors defence back allowing Heartland to Pepper Uche Okafor in goal .
Coach Emmanuel Deutsch interestingly did not go by his traditional 3-5-2 tactical set up opting for a default 4-3-3 which switches into a 4-4-2 when they lose possession all in a bid to continue the five year dominance over Heartland .
Ilechukwu’s power strikers gave the visitors defence a torrid time, making it difficult for their ball playing centre backs to join the party. Heartland created a couple of opportunities but Abiodun, Chukwuemeka and Sodiq failed to apply the finish while Abia were restricted to a few half chances to end the first half in a scoreless stalemate .
The second half started started with some electricity for the hosts encouraged by a dominant first half display and the largesse of the Chairman Chief Charles Ezekwem in the locker room, the lads were determined to banish their demons and end the siege.
Thirsty for blood and vengeance, the team threw everything at the visitors immediately after the restart and in the 56th minute it simply paid off.
Obioma Chukwuemeka with a delicious first touch controlled a pass in the path of his partner in crime Abiodun Thompson who stabbed home with a goal poachers instinct to send the Okigwe fans into wild Jubilations.
The Stadium simply erupted as the ball hit the net and the cacophony of noise cascaded the stands to greet the jinx breaking goal.
Heartland persisted and nearly got a second through the same source but Uche denied Heartland the insurance goal. Wounded and bruised the visitors tried to rally back but it was too little too late. After five minutes of additional time, Referee Joseph Ogabor brought down the curtains on a titanic encounter where Heartland for the first time In five years, got maximum points against Abia Warriors. Her first victory Against Abia warriors in ten meetings.
An elated Fidelis Ilechukwu thanked his players, technical crew,Fans and management for a well deserved victory.
He dedicated the victory to the fans and his assistants.
“to be honest my assistants knew more about Abia Warriors than myself and they worked tirelessly with me to make this happen so I dedicate this victory to them and the fans”
Speaking further Ilechukwu described his team as a work in progress that needs time to get that team chemistry.
“records are meant to be broken, at Mfm I broke some ,I was confident that my team will win”
On Heartland ‘s next game which is against Enyimba at Aba Ilechukwu admitted it will be a difficult game as his team is still facing some challenges but promised that his lads will be positive about the Aba game .
. Perhaps the only disappointment in this game would be that the Naze Millionaires didn’t score more goals as it was a scintillating display of dominance and swashbuckling football
*Ikechukwu Ezenwa: The Heroics
Just as he did in the games at home to Enugu Rangers and away to Warri Wolves, the Super Eagles Heartland shot stopper showed why Coach Gernot Rohr, continues to persist with the bulky No 1. Excited at Ezenwa’s maturity in between the sticks Ilechukwu described him as the Best guardian in between the stick I’m the country. He repelled several goal bound counter attacking moves by the visitors. The 92nd minute was very spectacular when Heartland were very close to the promise land, Abia Warriors had a late charge. Asiegbu’s attempt was wonderfully kept out by Ezenwa as Heartland inched close to a first-ever league win over their Perennial rival .
Heartland FC: Record Breakers
Plateau United’s unbeaten streak was broken by our gallant heroes at the Okigwe Township stadium weeks ago. Coach Emmanuel Deutsch hitherto was confident of all three points to continue with past history. At the Okigwe Township Stadium this unwanted record was broken. A true testament once again to the true spartan spirit inherent in the young warlocks of Heartland FC. Records will continue to be broken.
The Table and the Schedule
Heartland sits 11th on the log with 18 points after 14 points with a -3 goal difference. Better days are ahead. The giant slaying spree continues as Heartland visits Highflying Enyimba on Wednesday, 15th January 2020 at the Enyimba Stadium Aba