Striker Charles Atshimene was the hero as his first half brace inspired Akwa United to a 3-1 win over Heartland on Thursday and earned them a return to the top of the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) table.
Knowing that table toppers Kano Pillars had lost to United’s neighbours Rivers United on Wednesday, Akwa United were fully aware that a win on Thursday would return them to the summit ahead of both teams’ faceoff in Kaduna on Sunday.
The Promise Keepers left no stone unturned at the Nest of Champions, Uyo and shot into the lead as early as the 3rd minute when Atshimene pounced on a defensive miscommunication in the Hesrtland defence to tap home to an unguarded net.
The striker then got his second in the 24th minute when he finished off an assist by winger Ubong Friday.
Heartland, coached by Fidelis Ilechukwu produced an immediate response though as Chijioke Akuneto halved the deficit sixty seconds later, profiting from a pass by Issah Lengkat.
FT: Akwa United 3-1 Heartland— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) June 10, 2021
Two goals from Charles Atshimene propelled @AkwaUnited_fc to the win which extends their unbeaten run to 16 games and sends them to the summit, setting up what promises to be a thrilling top-of-the-table contest against @pillarsfc on Sunday. #AKWHEA pic.twitter.com/Inr085shwI
Kennedy Boboye’s Akwa United made the game safe seventeen minutes from time courtesy of Friday who turned from provider to get in on the act himself and round off a deserved win for the Promise Keepers.
The win extends Akwa United’s unbeaten run to sixteen matches, a record still for a single season in Nigeria’s top flight and equals the 16-game unbeaten record held by Enyimba from the 2004 to 2005 league seasons.
Akwa United are now top of the log with 49 points, one ahead of Kano Pillars with twelve matches to spare. Both teams will clash on Sunday in a top-of-the-table contest at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.
Match Day 26 results
Plateau Utd 2-0 Katsina Utd
Enyimba 2-1 Adamawa Utd
Rivers Utd 2-0 Kano Pillars
Jigawa Stars 1-1 Wikki
FC Ifeanyiubah 2-1 Kwara Utd
Lobi Stars 1-0 Rangers
Sunshine Stars 1-0 Dakkada
Nasarawa Utd 3-1 Wolves
MFM FC 0-0 Abia Warriors
Akwa United 3-1 Heartland
Picture credit: League Management Company