By Daniel Etefia
Akwa United returned to winning ways, as a brace from Ndifreke Effiong and an Akarandut Orok goal helped them come from behind to earn a 3-1 victory against Heartland at the Nest of Champions on Sunday.
Kennedy Boboye’s side and Heartland headed into the game with contrasting forms, with Akwa having lost their last two games while Fidelis Illechukwu’s team had won two of their last three.
The hosts handed debuts to new signings Olisa Ndah and Ifeanyi Eze. Chiwendu Ali, who joined the club at the start of the season, also played his first game for the club on the evening. Heartland, on the other had, had only one of their new recruits in their line-up — with Illechukwu listing Kabiru Sanusi in the starting XI.
After a brilliant start that saw new signing Ndah hit the base of the post, the Promise Keepers found themselves behind after 15 minutes. Youngster Samuel Nnoshiri carved through the Akwa defence line with a dazzling run before seeing his shot deflected into the path of Chukwuemeka Obioma, who tapped into an empty net.
The Naze Millionaires’ lead, though, lasted for only four minutes, as Ndifreke Effiong broke free to riffle in from outside the box to level matters.
Akwa were forced to make an early change after a collision between Marshall Johnson and Heartland’s Ayo Adetola left the former unfit to continue, with Morice Chukwu coming on as his replacement. Chukwu proved to be an impact sub as he brought balance and bite to the Akwa midfield.
The Promise Keepers kept pilling up pressure on the visitors and were rewarded with a deserved lead in the 38th minute, with Akaradut Orok heading home from close range after being found by Chiwendu Ali’s pin-point cross. It was the striker’s fifth goal of the season.
Heartland had a chance to equalize in the closing minutes of the half through a freekick 20 yards out, but Kabiru Sanusi failed to trouble goalkeeper Jean Efala.
After the break, The Promise Keepers showed no signs of slowing things down and were close to extending the lead through Ali, who saw his exquisite freekick rattle the frame of the goal.
But it wasn’t long until the third goal arrived. Ndifreke Effiong scored his second of of the game, sending a towering header into the back of the net from Matthew Etim’s cross.
And chances kept flying in for the home team. Morice Chukwu’s thunderous shot from 25 yards wasn’t far from target.
Heartland had a rare chance with 10 minutes remaining, but Jean Efala produced a fantastic save at point-blank range to keep the scoreline unattainable for the visitors.
The result lifted Boboye’s side into sixth place with 26 points — five points adrift of leaders Lobi stars — and dropped Heartland to 11th place from ninth.
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