Heartland boss Fidelis Ilechukwu was full of praises for his players after they came from behind to beat Akwa United 2-1 in a frenetic MatchDay 6 encounter at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri on Sunday.
Winger Mfon Udoh gave Akwa United a deserved lead in the 34th minute when he finished after a sloppy defending from the Heartland defence. Mfon would miss even a better chance to double the lead just before half time.
Udoh and his side was then punished for that profligacy by a reborn Heartland side in the second half. First, Samuel Nnoshiri replied from the penalty spot seven minutes after the break before centre back Nduka Eze sprang an offside trap to supply the winner ten minutes from time.
Ilechukwu was a happy man at the end of the game.
“It was a great one for us. Akwa United dominated the first half and we entered inside the dressing room and discussed with the players and they were able to bring two goals which gave us the day,” said Ilechukwu to www.npfl.ng
“I am impressed by the players’ character. They got the instructions and made the best use of it. Akwa United were the better side but we won the game from our character and I give it to my boys today,” added the former MFM boss.
Sunday’s win was only the second time Heartland would end up not losing a game in their six matches played so far in the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season, the other, a home win over Enyimba ten days ago.
The hard-fought win took Heartland just one spot above relegation zone but could slip back into the red zone should Wikki Tourists beat Jigawa Golden Stars on Monday.
Ilechukwu says his side must now start to get good results if they are to properly shake off being drawn into a relegation dogfight.
“Our next game is against Jigawa Golden Stars and we will start by aspiring to get points in Kaduna on Sunday. It is the next important game in front of us and we have to go for it,” said Ilechukwu.
Like Ilechukwu noted, Heartland will be aiming for their first away points of the season when they travel to Jigawa Golden Stars in Kaduna next match day while Akwa United will be hosts to Kano Pillars at the Nest of Champions, Uyo.
13. Ikechukwu Ezenwa 17. Chizoba Amaefule 3. Benjamin Francis 4. Jimoh Gbadamosi 6. Pascal Eze 25. Kenneth Ikwugbado 21. Ayooluwa Adetola
16. Bright Onyedikachi 35. Shedrack Oghali 27. Chidiebere Ajoku
8. Samuel Nnoshiri
2. Segun Fatunwase 7. Chibundu Amah
10. Emmanuel Nnamani 14. Uche Oguchi
19. Chijioke Akuneto 23. Ikenna Agozi
24. Aputazie Leonard Ugochukwu
37. Edianabong Akanimo 38. Emmanuel Bafan
Coach: Fidelis Ilechukwu
Akwa United team
1 Adewale Adeyinka 29 Etboy Akpan
16 Otobong Effiong 12 Morice Chukwu 5 Sampson Gbadebo 6 Charles Okafor 7 Ubong Friday 21 Ndifreke Effiong 26 Ikechukwu Nwani 19 Seth Mayi 30 Mfon Udoh
22 Bassey Akpan 3 David Philip 15 Wilson Elu 32 Ekemini Ukoebe
27 Ubong Essien 20 Dare Ojo 28 Stephen Amos 25 Wisdom Fernando 13 Charles Atshimene
Coach: Kennedy Boboye