Heartland walk tight rope with 2-1 win
Nigerian side, Heartland FC of Owerri on Sunday pulled a hard earned 2-1 win over TP Mazembe of DR Congo in the first leg final of the Orange CAF Champions League, to put their chances of winning the trophy under pressure.
The host started the game in their usual fluid manner with skipper ThanGod Ike, playing form the heart of the defence motivating from the rare, while veteran Emeka Nwana alias Ayaya, who was part of the 2001 and 2002 Enyimba FC triumph tormented the defence of the visitors in the early minutes of the encounter.
On the dot of 17th minute Ayaya, came close to scoring but was denied by the Mazembe keeper Muteba Kidiaba, as the visitors gradually gained confidence. Five minutes on, striker, Mbutu Mabi, benefited from a seemingly harmless loose ball and tried to dribble past defender Emmanuel Olowo, who aided his effort by tripping without a challenge, allowing Mbutu to stroll into the vital area to hit the opener past goalkeeper Austin Brown to silence the capacity filled Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri.
But Flying Eagles star, King Osanga replied almost immediately, when he latched onto a through pass from his team mate to equalize for the Nigerians and bring scores to 1-1 in the 24th minute. Nwana was again presented a chance to shoot the homers ahead but he fluffed it in the 37th minute. The visitors were content with occasional forays into the Nigerians vital area in an eventful first half that was even only in scoreline.
The second half offered the same toughness for the host, as they practically chased the game with the frustrating display by the Congolese. Heartland topscorer Uche Agba, Osanga and Nwana were all presented opportunities in the half but they were unlucky till the 76th minute and as expected Uche Agba popped up to strike home the second goal off a long pass from the midfield that evaded the crowded legs of the Congolese on the slippery pitch following a downpour earlier before the match.
Camerounian midfielder Narcisse Ekanga, made a late battle cry for a share of the spoils with motivating play, but Ike and his defence line stood resolute until Egyptians referee Abdel Fata Essam sounded the home whistle.
The second leg is slated for the Congolese city of Lubumbashi on Saturday, November 7.
At stake for the winner is a 1,500,000 US Dollars prize-money and a ticket to represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup slated for the United Arab Emirates in December.
HOSTS COUNTRIES OF NEXT CAF COMPETITIONSOrange CAN 2012
REGULATIONS / PUBLICATIONSCAF Statutes