Akwa United recorded their second away win of the 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League season in a hard fought 1-2 victory over Heartland FC of Owerri at the Okigwe Township Stadium on Sunday.
A goal in each half by Ndifreke Effiong and Mfon Udoh helped secure the vital win for the Promise keepers and moved them to second on the Group B table with 19 points from 11 games.
Victory in Okigwe extended coach Rafael Everton-led United’s unbeaten run to seven games and leaves them just two points behind leaders FC Ifeanyi Ubah who are on 21 points after eleven games.
United went into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw in their last away game against Gombe United and they needed a win to boost their chances of moving up the table and deservedly got the result they wanted in a grand style.
Coach Everton named youngster Emmanuel Charles who made a fantastic debut in Gombe in his starting line up and the former Akwa Starlets midfielder lived up to expectations playing alongside Christopher Lolo.
Akwa United got off to a perfect start when Ndifreke Effiong was at the end of Mfon Udoh’s low cross in the 3rd minute to give his team the lead with his 5th goal of the season. Moments later, Effiong had another chance to double his team’s advantage but Heartland goalkeeper Ebele Obi was quick to come off his line to clear the danger.
The Promise Keepers dominated the game and created plethora of chances but were unable to kill it off. Udoh saw two of his attempts saved by Ebele Obi and the third on the stroke of half time agonisingly missed the target.
At the other end, Jean Efala was in his element, making some breathtaking saves including a triple save in the space of one minute to keep the hosts at bay in the first stanza.
Both teams missed glorious chances early in the second half.
Cyril Olisema beat his maker from the left but his effort sailed across the face of goal with no one to benefit from it while Chidebere Ajoku’s brilliant shot was spectacularly tipped over the bar by impressive Jean Efala.
In the 55th minute, Alberico Da Silva delivered a good cross towards Ndifreke Effiong but goalkeeper Ebele Obi in a attempt to make a save collided with the striker who sustained an injury and was stretched off. Moments after Ocheme Edoh replaced Ndifreke Effiong, the hosts level the scores with a wonderful strike by Ajoku in the 57th minute.
In a tactical switch, Coach Everton introduced new signing Aniefiok Godspower to replace Christopher Lolo and youngster Wisdom Fernando in place of Alberico Da Silva.
The switch paid off instantly when Godspower and Charles combined to free Cyril Olisema who cut open Heartland back line before dropping for Mfon Udoh. The striker kept his calm and curled in superbly in the 72nd minute to restore his team’s lead with his 8th goal of the season.
Seconds after giving his team the lead, Udoh was clear on goal again but Ebele Obi rushed out of his area and deliberately stopped Udoh’s goal bound effort with his hand outside the box. He was sent off with 17th minute to the end of the game.
Substitute goalkeeper Godwin Ameh was called to action immediately he came on and he responded swiftly when he tipped Mfon Udoh’s spectacular freekick out for a corner. Ameh stood his ground again in stoppage time to deny Mfon Udoh from close range but the result was good enough for the Promise Keepers fourth win in six matches against Heartland in the NPFL.
The Uyo based side who struggled at the beginning of the season have now picked 17 points from a possible 21 in their last seven matches and will host Heartland next weekend in the corresponding fixture at the Godswill Akpabio international stadium in Uyo.