It was a gallant performance from visiting club Heartland FC, who narrowly went down 3-2 to the Niger Tornadoes on Sunday at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna, in a Nigeria Premier Football League Match Day 17 tie. Azeez Akintunde, Muhammed Hussein, and Sadiq Isyaka were on the score sheet for the Ikon Allah Boys, while Clement Ogbobe and George Jenom grabbed the goals for the Naze Millionaires.
Returned Heartland FC head coach Christian Obi didn't make any changes to the team that defeated Remo Stars 3-1 with Chisom Chiaha at the goalpost, while skipper Nnaemeka Anyanwu, Christian Molokwu, Divine Ukadike, and Peters Afolayan took their spots in the defence. Promise Anyanwu, Clement Ogbobe, and Christian Weli were preferred in the midfield, and workaholics Chidiebere Ajoku, George Jenom, and Ifeanyi Anyanwu were the attackers.
The Tornadoes started the game at a fast pace and could have led inside the opening five minutes, but poor marksmanship from their attackers denied them scoring opportunities. The Ikon Allah Boys were not to be denied for long after a gaffe from Heartland FC goalkeeper Chisom Chiaha presented Azeez Akintunde with the easier task of a tap from close range in the 11th minute.
A routine long-range effort was flapped by Chiaha while he was in the process of catching it, and Akintunde did the follow-up.
The goal didn't demoralize the Owerri side. They improved their game, and they showed flashes that the equalizer was lurking around. The Naze Millionaires did equalize in the 34th minute through a delightful free kick worthy of contender of the goal of the season scored by Clement Ogbobe. Ifeanyi Anyanwu was fouled in a counterattack move, and Ogbobe curled a wonder goal from about 25 yards that beat Tornadoes goalie Joshua Enaholo.
Heartland FC took the lead three minutes later through George Jenom after a mistake from Tornadoes goalkeeper Enahoro. Christian Molokwu made a routine long throw-in, but Enahoro, in an attempt to catch the ball, dropped it in his goal area, and Jenom received the gift with all pleasure despite backing the net at the time. He turned and slammed the ball into the back of the net.
It didn't take too long for the tornadoes to level proceedings again. Bashir Usman, with an amazing run, beat Heartland FC defender Nnaemeka Anyanwu before he unleashed a fine cross, which Mohammed Hussein nodded home in the 43rd minute. It ended 2-2 at halftime. There was nothing much to separate the two teams in the second half. But before its restart, Tunde Oyewole had replaced the injured Promise Anyanwu.
Head coach Christian Obi brought on Brandon Ikechukwu, Onyekachi Okafor, and Austin Osayande for Christian Weli, George Jenom, and Chidiebere Ajoku in the 70th minute in search of the winning goal, but it was the home team that stunned the Owerri side through Isyaka Sadiq's cracking volley in the 76th minute.
Tornadoes had a great chance to increase the lead in the 83rd minute through Mohammed Hussein again, but goalkeeper Chiaha, with a wonderful fingertip save, pushed the ball out for a corner kick to deny the Ikon Allah Boys the fourth goal. Heartland FC will now prepare for their weekend home game with Kwara United.