Match Day Two games in the Nigeria Professional Football League take centre stage on Wednesday and top of the pile is an Oriental Derby involving former Champions Enyimba and Heartland in Calabar. Our guest writer, Jesse Jidechi who has followed Heartland for some years and has thus witnessed many of these derbies, takes a look at some of the actors who have decided this game in recent past.
In the past few years, Oriental derby games involving Enyimba and Heartland have always seen a player or two from either side stealing the headlines with an impressive performance or contribution to the game, a fabulous winner or a last minute goal.
As Heartland FC continue their baptism of fire on their return to the elite division, we take a look at few of these meritorious performers;
CHINEDU UDOJI & BRIGHT EJIKE (Heartland 1-0 Enyimba, July 2016)
While Ejike was receiving praises for converting a 93rd minute penalty after a hotly contested game seemed to be heading for a goalless scoreline, Enyimba captain Chinedu Udoji was being bashed by fans and the press for gifting Heartland the careless penalty which could have easily been avoided by getting the ball off Ojevwe Akpoveta with a more decent tackle rather than the ‘agricultural’ one which eventually led to the downfall of the Aba-side in Owerri.
Both sides were inseparable for long periods and with Heartland flirting with relegation, the three points earned from such circumstance was invaluable.
IFEANYI ONUIGBO (Enyimba 1-1 Heartland, April 2016)
After Peter Onyekachi put the Elephants ahead in the 32nd minute, it took Onuigbo just four minutes to get the equalizer for Heartland after tapping in Emeka Ogbugh’s cross from a freekick.
His overall performance was enough to earn him a transfer to Enyimba midway through that season and thousands of fans at the Umuahia Stadium will not forget the contribution of this Naze army.
CHRISTIAN OBIOZOR (Enyimba 2-0 Heartland, June 2015)
After having made various attempts on goal in the space of ten minutes, Heartland looked to be coming back into the game.
Already a goal down, new signing and now poster boy of the club, Christian Obiozor ensured a come-back for Heartland wasn’t happening by scoring his side’s second in the 55th minute, a win that put the Elephants back on top of the league table and en route to a seventh league title.
EMEKA OGBUGH (Heartland 2-1 Enyimba, October 2015)
While others stole the headlines for scoring timely goals, Ogbugh stole it for scoring a goal that was both timely and massively magnificent.
Enyimba had drawn level after ex-Enyimba player, Fortune Omoniwari put Heartland ahead with a freekick goal and looked to be running away with a point but it took the cleverness of Emeka Ogbugh to beat three Enyimba men and score the winner from an almost impossible angle – a goal that is yet to leave the memory of many Nigerian football lovers.
HENRY UCHE (Heartland 2-3 Enyimba, March 2012)
Chibuzo Okonkwo scored to pull one back for Enyimba after Kabiru Umar and Abdul Haruna had given Heartland a 2-0 lead in the first half, but it took the brilliance of ‘super-sub’ Nzube Anaezemba to draw Enyimba level.
Anaezemba’s first touch turned goal however proved to just be a motivation for Henry Uche whose 57th minute goal sent Enyimba faithfuls at the stadium into wild jubilations.
Matchday 2 of the 2017/18 season will see Enyimba square up against Heartland in another derby game which is up for grabs for the players of either sides to hog the headlines.
Enyimba might might be playing at home – an adopted home in Calabar – but that will not stop the likes of Heartland’s Francis Momoh, Okoro Ndukwe or even new-boys, Lucky Emariojake, John Chukwudi and Fuad Ekelojuoti from trying to be the hero of day as their inputs in the goalless draw against Sunshine Stars in Owerri weren’t enough to get the team all three points.
Enyimba’s Stephen Chukwude, Dare Ojo, Chinedu Udeagha and ex-ABS FC man, Wasiu Alalade on the other hand would not want to lose their first home game of the season, hence a super display can be expected from them just like the one they put up in the 1-1 draw against Lobi Stars to aid Enyimba to a point in Makurdi.
by Jidechi Chidiezie, Twitter: @JesseJidechi