Heartland have been crowned champions of the Nigeria National League following a 2-0 win over Kano Pillars in the final of the Super 8 in Asaba, www.aclsports.com reports.
Get promoted ✅
Win the NNL ✅
We are champions of Nigeria's 2nd division! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/OU0dSfp79N
— Heartland FC (@HeartlandFC_ng) July 7, 2023
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The Naze Millionaires scored two second-half goals through Francis Erikan and Fabian Omaka to beat Pillars in a keenly contested final at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on Friday.
The two sides booked their spots in the final after finishing top of their respective conferences to set up the mouthwatering final and the game equally lived up to expectations in front of a sizable number of fans at the stadium.
Having sealed their promotion back to the top flight, the two teams approached the game with a lot of caution and it took a while before goalscoring chances were created.
Just after the half-hour mark, Francis went in search of the opener but Pillars goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo denied him from range, as Kingsley Arum mistimed his acrobatic in the follow-up. That was the best chance of the half as the two teams went into the break leveled.
After the break, Erikan embarked on a mesmerizing run before finishing calmly to hand Heartland the lead in the 54th minute. Pillars, who were missing inspirational captain Rabiu Ali due to suspension, struggled to get their rhythm but when they did shortly after Heartland’s lead, goalkeeper Chisom Chiagha produced a magnificent stop to deny Sai Masu Gida from finding the back of the net.
— Engineer Kowope (@Undisputed_Jsam) July 7, 2023
Christian Obi’s boys turned defense into an attack to double their lead in the 76th minute and put the game beyond Pillars. Striker Chidiebere Ajoku did well to hold up play before setting up Fabian to finish expertly into the bottom corner. In the end, Heartland are crowned NNL champions deservedly, having gone through the abridged season and playoffs unbeaten.
After the final, a short awards ceremony was held. With Heartland crowned Champions, their star player Francis Erikan won the best player award, Stormers Sporting Club won the Fair Play award, the best Goalkeeper award went to Heartland’s Chisom Chiagha and the Highest Goal Scorer award (regular Season and Playoffs) went to Akin Solomon from Madiba F.C.
Meanwhile, Heartland and other promoted teams will now turn their attention to the 2023/24 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season that has been scheduled to kick off next month.
Image credit: Ikechukwu Ojibi