Nigeria’s only surviving club in the CAF Champions League, Heartland on Sunday recorded their first win of the group stage of the continent’s top club competition when they beat visiting Egyptian club side, Ismaily.
The encounter played at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri ended 2-1 in favour of Heartland but the team’s coach Samson Siasia will still have cause to complain about his misfiring forward line as all of his side’s goals against Ismaily came from defenders.
Heartland needed to win in order to keep alive their fading hopes for a semi final berth after failing to win any of their opening three games of the group stage. And to make matters worse for Siasia’s side, it was the visitors who shot into the lead after 29 minutes through Mohamed Soliman Ali.
That lead, however, lasted for only nine minutes before the team’s skipper Ike Thankgod pulled them back on level terms with the Egyptians who two weeks earlier defeated Heartland in Egypt 1-0.
Heartland’s last home encounter against another Egyptian side Al-Ahly, back in July, had ended in a one-all draw and Owerri fans will be forgiven for thinking that it was going to be the same case scenario against Ismaily until former Enugu Rangers captain Chinedu Efugh popped up to score the match winning goal with five minutes left on the clock.
The win saw Heartland swapping places with Ismaily in the Group B standings but anything less than a win in their upcoming game against Al-Ahly in two weeks time will mark the end of the Owerri side’s Champions League aspirations.
Eaglets grounded in Congo
It was, however, a different story in Pointe Noire, Congo where the Nigerian Under 17 national team, the Golden Eaglets, fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of their hosts in an African Junior Championship first round, first leg qualifier.
The Golden Eaglets, silver medal winners at the last FIFA World Cup held in Nigeria last year, fell behind after just eight minutes through a penalty kick goal, but they afterwards kept the Congolese at bay to go into the dressing room at the half-time break just a goal down.
Worse was to come their way in the second half as they conceded a second goal two minutes before the hour mark before the match’s centre referee from the Central African Republic Bertrand Bekai issued a red card to the Nigerian coach Monday Odigie for challenging some of his calls.
Odigie’s expulsion means he will not be on the bench when both sides meet in the return leg encounter in Nigeria on September 11.