Heartland claim first NPFL away win in 33 months

By George Akpayen

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Photo: LMC Media
Photo: LMC Media

Former Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions Heartland claimed a rare win on the road for the first time in 33 months and 19 days when they defeated Niger Tornadoes 2-1 at the Confluence Stadium in Lokoja on Wednesday.

It was the first time the Naze Millionaires would win an away game since a 3-1 win against Kwara United on April 19, 2015 as they profited from two defensive blips by Tornadoes to take the full points.

Despite starting the game at Tornadoes with exprienced goalkeeper Ebele Obi and Julius Ubido, both named on the bench by head coach Ramson Madu, the Owerri club produced quite a decent display to edge past their opponents.

First half goals by Lucky Emariojake and Afeez Mohammed proved sufficient in spite of a nervy finish to the contest after Bashir Usman’s acrobatic strike halved the lead of Madu’s men.

Former Heartland manager Erasmus Onuh, now in charge of Tornadoes, listed a strong field of playing personnel including Mustapha Aliko, Reuben Ogbonnaya, Sunday Akinmoladun, Segun Alebiosu, Andrew Ikefe, Bolaji Adeyemo and Ibrahim Babawo. Solomon Owello remains sidelined with an ankle injury.

Heartland got their noses in front on six minutes after Emariojake’s persistence paid. He chased down goalkeeper Japheth Opubo’s kick-out with Akinmoladun failing to clear and allowing the 23-year-old striker to steal in and put the ball beyond Aliko.

Tornadoes quartet of Alebiosu, Babawo, Uche Onwuasoanya and Eric Frimpong had chances to draw their team level even after Heartland’s goalscorer Emariojake had to make way early for Afeez following a knock on the ankle.

Three minutes before the break, Heartland extended their lead to two. Afeez benefited from another poor defending by Akinmoladun to score.

In added time of first half, Frimpong’s effort clipped the woodwork.

Four minutes into the restart, Bashir’s overhead kick gave Tornadoes a lifeline.

The second 45 minutes was all Tornadoes. Bashir and Babawo came close to levelling matters with the former watching in despair as his effort came off the frame of the post midway into the second half.

Onuh will be disappointed as his men had 21 shots at goal with 15 on target and yet lost. Tornadoes have now lost all of their last five league games, the first in their history in the division.

© The Predictor

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