Sunday, August 28, 2011

Heartland close to first title in 18 years

Heartland have moved one step closer to ending their 18-year-old trophy drought when they reached the final of the Federation Cup on Saturday.

The Naze Millionaires defeated Nigeria National League (NNL) side, Bayelsa United by 2 – 1 at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano to reach their first cup final since 1999.

Both sides cancelled out each other in the first 45 minutes before former Inter Enugu man, Obinna Nwachukwu broke the deadlock on 52 minutes.

It was a day for Heartland’s new men, as Kingsley Salami, who joined from Bukola Babes in mid-season, poked home the second goal just on the hour-mark to make the game safe for the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) side.

Bayelsa United, which missed a quick return to the top flight after being relegated last term, peppered Heartland’s goal area in the last 15 minutes of the game.

It was however, Uchenna Ihuarulam’s strike just two minutes to time that gave Bayelsa United a late goal, which turned out to be too little, too late.

Captain of Heartland, Chinedu Efugh, told that he is happy that his side have played themselves into the final of the Federation Cup after a torrid season in the league.

Chicago as Efugh is also called said he is looking forward to the final of the cup at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

“I am happy we made it to the final. I am sure the fans will be happy too because it has been a long time since the team won any trophy in the country. This is our chance and we will be looking forward to the final game in Lagos,” the centre-half told on telephone.

Heartland will now wait for the winner of the second semifinal game between Enyimba and Ocean Boys.

It is the first cup final that Heartland will be playing after 12 years when they lost by a lone goal to Plateau United.

Heartland last won a domestic trophy in Nigeria in 1993 when they emerged winners of the top division when they were known as Iwuanyanwu Nationale.

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