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‘Our strikers don’t take risks anymore’

By Onochie Anibeze
After 45 minutes of play Uwakwe Eke could not hold back his views.
“What is happening? Why are our players no longer daring? Why do they not show commitment? This game is dull, no exciting moments, no fire on both sides.”

The Enyimba Stadium in Aba had reasonable attendance, a good one,  going by the current standard in the domestic football. Heartland were visiting Enyimba and that attracted fans.

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They had just played in the Champions League final and for two seasons now they have reorganised to be among the top Nigerian sides. This is happening many  years after their reign when they were Iwuanyanwu Nationale,  ably led by Prince Lemmy Akakem then.

Their current status must have earned them respect before Enyimba who, as a home side,  appeared a little bit laid-back in their total play although they attacked more and were unlucky not to have won. They missed two close chances in the first half and one unbelievable chance towards the end of the match. Heartland missed a chance in the second half.

The league encounter ended goalless. But generally, the game did not live up to expectations of the fans. It couldn’t pass for an exciting one.

It was against this background that Eke, a one time international and who made name playing for the likes of Nationale lamented what he saw, decrying the lack of passion on both sides.

“We expected more from these players. They are not giving us what we expected. I don’t see hunger in them. These days,  I see crosses in front of goal and strikers just allow the ball get away even when they are close. I don’t see players throw themselves to make contact and possibly score in such instances.

They don’t put in something extra.  They don’t take  risks any more and that’s why they are not getting goals and some games, like this one, will always be dull,” Uwakwe continued at full time. He left the stadium a disappointed man.

Ace sports journalist and sports promoter Paul Bassey who was match commissioner described the match as a good one going by the Nigerian standard.

“I think that Enyimba and Heartland were too cautious, they showed respect for each other and that didn’t help in making the match explosive. But by our standards, it was a good match. You need to see many other league matches to appreciate that this one was good.”

Heartland were at home in Aba. The atmosphere was very friendly during and after the match.

“We hope it will be so when we return to Owerri,” Felix Anyansi-Agwu, Enyimba’s chairman said.“It was a good game. Enyimba were better in the first half and should have taken the match then. But were calm after that and getting a point here is worth celebrating,” Ben Iroha of Heartland said.


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