When Warri’s Heart Beats For Heartland


Warri Wolves’ aura of fluid play, especially at their home ground was truncated by Heartland Football Club of Owerri last weekend.

Wolves, who knocked out FC Kallon of Sierra Leone in this year’s CAF Confederation Cup, were confident the week 22 Nigeria Premier league, NPL, match would end in their favour.

But, the encounter, dubbed match of the week by the NPL and televised live by Supersport, failed to provide the expected fireworks. Not only that, Wolves’ game plan for the match did not work, while their strikers, Jude Aneke, Sunday Mba and Augustine Amutu could not score from the many chances they created against Heartland.

The first half of the game gave the home fans nothing to cheer, as the Coach Maurice Cooreman-led Wolves put every foot wrong. Azubuike Egwuekwe, Gabriel Ikechukwu and other defenders provided enough cover for Chigozie Agbim, so the Super Eagles goalkeeper had little to worry about.

But, Wolves did not get their bearing in the tie, leaving the visiting Heartland from Owerri to win the hearts of Warri fans, who were yearning for good football.

The brilliance of Osas Okoro, Ikechukwu ‘Mosquito’ Ibenegbu, Kingley Salami and Kingsley Udoh was highly applauded by the fans, who changed their allegiance due to Wolves’ uninspiring play.

Thus, Heartland capitalised on the very rare away support in the NPL to gather enough courage and took the ball to their hosts. Kabiru Umar and Okoro almost score against Wolves, but either missed target or shoot the ball into the waiting hands of Agbim.

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Wolves put up a die minute show, as striker Jude Aneke, last year’s NPL Highest Goal Scorer got two clear chances to win the match for the home side. But he failed to hit the ball well and allowed Heartland goalkeeper, Danile Akpei, Eagles’ second goalkeeper to grab the ball.

At the end of regulation time, both teams shared the points but the players and officials of Heartland walked out of the Warri township stadium with their heads held high.

“Of course, we have a reason to be happy because the draw was very crucial to our NPL ambition this season,” Heartland Tehchnical adviser, Lodewijk de Kruif told P.M.Sports after the tie in Warri on Sunday.

Emmanuel Okolosi, Timi Ossai and a few fans who spoke to P.M.Sports said they were thrilled by the beautiful display of the Owerri team.

“We booed our team, Wolves because they disappointed us and as lovers of good football; we decided to give Heartland our full support since they gave us something to cheer.

“Up Heartland, if Wolves play better next week, then they will have our support back…” the fans chorused in Warri.

—Tunde Oyedele