NDIFREKE, OROK BREAK HEARTLAND’S HEART IN A 3-1 WIN
Akwa United produced a brilliant performance to come back from a goal down and record a resounding 3-1 victory over Heartland FC on matchday 17 of the NPFL at the iconic Godswill Akpabio international stadium in Uyo, Sunday.
Ndifreke Effiong’s 19th minute thunderbolt cancelled out Chukwuemeka Obioma’s 15th minute opener for Heartland FC. Akarandut Orok headed the Promise Keepers into the lead in the 38th minute before Ndifreke Effiong completed his brace nine minutes after the restart to hand his team their 7th win of the 2019/2020 season in grand style.
Akwa United under new coach Kennedy Boboye had enjoyed five straight wins before being held to a goalless draw by Plateau United. The stalemate in Jos was followed by two straight defeats, losing by two goals margin to Kwara United in Uyo and Kano Pillars in Kano on matchdays 15 & 16.
Following the arrival of six new players in the mid-season transfer window, Coach Boboye made wholesale change to the team that lost to Kano Pillars last time out.
Two of the new signings; Olisa Ndah, Ifeanyi Eze made their way into the starting line up while Salisu Saidu started on the bench. Left-back Ali Chiwendu also made his debut since joining from Yobe Dersert Stars at the start of the season.
Etim Mathew, Sampson Gbadebo, Dare Ojo, and Akarandut Orok all returned to the starting line up for the crucial game against Heartland who recored a morale boosting win over Enyimba International in their last away game.
After an explosive opening to the game, it was the visitors that took the lead through Chukwuemeka Obioma in the 14th minute following a swift counter attack which was masterminded by Samuel Nnoshiri who cut open Akwa United’s defence with ease.
Heartland’s lead was short lived as Ndifreke Effiong brought his team back on level terms when he fired a thunderbolt past Ikechukwu Ezenwa into the top left corner for his 5th goal of the season.
The Promise Keepers lost Marshal Johnson to injury in the 23rd minute and he was replaced by Morice Chukwu. Coach Boboye’s men could have doubled their advantage in the 27th minute when Morice Chukwu freed Ifeanyi Eze on the edge of the visitors’ box and after beating two of his markers, Eze’s attempt went wide from a promising position much to the disappointment of the home fans.
Moments later, Morice Chukwu created a space for himself just outside the box and released a fierce strike that almost went in but Ikechukwu Ezenwa managed to bring it down before gathering it at a second attempt.
The home side went in front in the 37th minute through legendary striker Akarandut Orok who headed in Ali Chiwendu’s delightful cross from the left as the Promise Keepers went into the break with a deserved 2-1 lead.
On resumption, United thought they were two goals clear, only for Ali Chiwendu to see his well taken free-kick crashed against the crossbar with goalkeeper Ezenwa well beaten. Five minutes after the restart, Ifeanyi Eze laid a good ball for Chukwu whose low drive from outside the area was sailing to the bottom corner before Ezenwa dived low to make a save.
Akwa United made the most of their second half dominance and put the game beyond their visitors when Ndifreke Effiong rose the highest to send his glancing header beyond Ezenwa and into the back of the net from Etim Mathew’s pin-point cross.
Heartland wasted a great opportunity to reduce the deficit in the 79th minute when Obioma was put through in a one-on-one situation with Jean Efala, but the Cameroonian goalkeeper was at his best and made a superb point-blank save to deny the visitors’ what would have been their second goal of the match.
Coach Boboye in a bid to increase his team’s tally, added more firepower to the attack and sent in winger Paul Obata new signing Salisu Saidu to replaced Akarandut Orok and Ifeanyi Eze but the two forwards couldn’t do much to add to their advantage as they record their 7th win of the season and moved up to 6th on the log with 26 points from 17 games while Heartland slump to 11th on the log.
New signing Olisa Ndah who won the heart of the fans on his debut with an outstanding performance was voted Man-of-the-Match.
The Promise Keepers will next face FC Ifeanyi Ubah on matchday 18 in Nnewi while Heartland will host Sunshine Stars in Okigwe on Sunday 2nd February, 2020