After weeks of waiting, the Owerri fans finally got something to cheer this evening when their darling club, Heartland beat visiting Ismaily of Egypt 2-1 in their CAF Champions League match.
Ismaily were the first to score through skipper Mohammed Soliman Ali in the 24th minute. Ali beat the offside trap set by Heartland defenders, who lazily raised their hands calling for an offside, but the centre referee, Bennaceur Kacem from Tunisia snubbed them.
Ali, who had only goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa to contend with, moved ahead with the ball, before slotting in the curtain raiser. But, skipper ThankGod Ike responded with a deserved equaliser before the end of the first half.
The home fans saw Heartlandâ€™s first victory in the group stage of the continental tournament coming when their players continued their aggressive play against the Egyptians, who were observing the Ramadan.
While Coach Samson Siasia, who is on a rescue mission to Heartland continued to dish out instructions to the team, the players responded by coming out of their area to fight for ball possession.
Their determination paid off at about six minutes to full time, when Chinedu Efugh, a former Rangers of Enugu player, scored the winner in a goalmouth scramble.
It was a boost to Heartlandâ€™s quest to qualify for the semi final of 2010 CAF Champions League as the victory would improve their standing on the tabble.
With the victory, Heartland, apart from grabbing the sum of $2,000 from CAF for scoringÂ two goals, also received the sum of N1.2m from the Executive Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim.
The governor made good his promise of rewarding the team with the sum of N1m for a win, while additional goals fetched them N.2m.
In another development, Nigeriaâ€™s Golden EagletsÂ lost 0-2 to Congo in an African Junior Championship first round, first leg qualifier with Chief Coach, Monday Odigie seeing red.
In the match played in Pointe Noire, Nigeria fell behind after just eight minutes with a goal scored through a penalty kick, before conceding another in the 58th minute to eventually lose to their Congolese counterparts.
Coach Odigie was given the marching orders by Central African Republic referee Bekai Bertrand for challenging some of his calls.
It means he will not be on the bench when the two teams clash on 11 September during the return leg in Nigeria. Eaglets skipper Monday Egharevba was also booked in the game.
By Adebobola Alawode/Owerri