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We're motivated to beat Sporting Lagos FC, says Heartland FC coach

Posted : 08 April 2024

The chief coach of Heartland FC, Toyin Ayinla, who deputized for head coach Christian Obi, has praised the efforts of the players and the concerted teamwork of the technical crew for the victory over visiting Sporting Lagos FC. 

He said the players were motivated to give their best and that Heartland FC will begin preparations for the Oriental derby with Enyimba in Aba almost immediately. 

"It was a tough game, but the players gave their very best to ensure the team returned to winning ways. We are all happy with this feat," Ayinla disclosed.

"The technical crew and everyone in the club also worked tirelessly to ensure we got the win. We are grateful for that. 

"We know we shall be up against Enyimba next, and we shall prepare adequately for the game."

Recall that the Naze Millionaires returned to winning ways on Sunday at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba, following a 3-1 home victory over Sporting Lagos in a Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) Matchday 29 tie.

Two goals from Stephen Chukwude, one in each half, and another from Chukwudi Esobe led the Naze Millionaires to victory, while Junior Lokosa got the Noisy Lagosians' consolation strike. 

Heartland FC head coach, Christian Obi, retained Darlintin Ovunda in goal after an excellent performance in Yenagoa against Bayelsa United, while Andrew Abalogu returned to the fold after serving his three-game ban for a straight red card he got against Abia Warriors, with Divine Ukadike, Peters Afolayan, and Chinedu Ozor in defense.

Barnabas Ingya, Austin Osayande, and Ugochukwu Leonard were the midfielders, while Christian Weli, Stephen Chukwude, and Chukwudi Esobe were the attackers.

Heartland FC dominated the early exchanges but were not clinical in front of goal, with Esobe missing a golden opportunity in the 31st minute when he applied too much force to his shot instead of a gentle tap after he had maneuvered his way into Sporting Lagos' 18-yard box.

The goal eventually came six minutes before halftime. Chukwude received a pass and hit a half-volley that flew past goalkeeper Christian Nwoke, who got his hand to it but couldn't stop it from resting at the back of the net for the game's opening goal. The Owerri side led 1-0 at halftime. 

At the start of the second half, Chijioke Opara replaced Peters Afolayan, who sustained a head injury in the 15th minute and had to play through the pain barrier until halftime with a bandaged head.

The second half was barely four minutes old when Barnabas Ingya made a mistake in his attempt to position himself for a pass. A Sporting Lagos player made the most of the chance for his side's counterattack as he gave the pass to Junior Lokosa, who placed the ball beyond Ovunda despite his valiant effort to stop him. The game was 1-1 at the time. 

It became a ding-dong affair afterwards, but it didn't take long before Heartland FC regained the lead. 

The chance came in the 72nd minute when Esobe, arguably the game's Man of the Match, was fouled in the 18-yard box after he tried to dribble past two Sporting Lagos defenders. Chukwude converted the resultant penalty kick in the 75th minute.

Three minutes later, it was the turn of Esobe to wriggle his way through the Sporting Lagos defense before he rifled his shot into the roof of the net for the Naze Millionaires' third goal. It was how the game ended.

Heartland FC improved to 26 points from 29 games as a result of the win and will face Enyimba next in another Oriental derby this weekend in Aba.


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