By Ubong Bassey
It was celebration galore in the State Capital of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State as Ibom Angels had a convincing 4-0 win over Heartland Queens on match day 7, which happens to be the last fixture to end the first stanza of the Nigerian Women Premier League (NWPL).
It was a brace in the 13th and 85th minute from Emem Essien, a 32nd minute goal from Blessing Dabrinze and 57th minute strike from Charity Reuben which proved more than enough to overpower the Owerri based team.
The high point of this game was the Cristiano Ronaldo-like second strike from Essein that got the entire stadium agog with chants of her name and garnished with a standing ovation by the fans at the Itam Sports Complex on Wednesday, May 10.
Coach Ogbonda Whyte of Ibom Angels did not start with his traditional 11, as he opted to use a different set of players like Joy Enamino, Reuben and Eunice Ezeani. Meanwhile, the debutantes manager Coach Moses Aduku of Heartland Queens, benched some of his key players like Ndidi Okeke and Onah Oluchi.
The stadium was filled to capacity before kick off as fans were still trooping into the stadium to watch the game after it commenced. From the blast of the whistle, Heartland Queens were struggling to settle into the game as Ibom Angels were on the offensive every time they had possession of the ball.
The trio of Reuben, Dabrinze and Essien for the hosts were like a house on fire with their intricate play. In the 7th minute, Ibom Angels’ Charity Reuben shrugged off a tackle by Heartland Queens Esther Oduele, only for her right footed power strike to be saved by Heartland goalie, MaryAnn Akin.
The opening goal of the evening was scored by Ibom Angels’ Essien, who slid the ball into the back of the net with her left foot from Celine Ottah’s connecting pass off the right, in the 13th minute.
The first real chance came in for the visitors in the 15th minute when Queens’ Glory Sunday fought off Ibom Angels’ Ibe Abidemi with her quick feet but her ball was pushed much forward into the waiting gloves of the goalkeeper, Lucky Andy.
The hosts’ were clearly superior in terms of ball possession and attacking play as the visitors were pegged back in their own half for a great part of the first half. Coach Aduku was restless on the touchline as he was kicking the air and shouting to amp his girls up.
Unfortunately, that psyching didn’t help his girls much because in the 32nd minute, Angels’ Dabrinze pounced on a loose ball from a poor clearance by a Heartland defender to nick in her first goal of the day and the second goal for her team.
Queens’ Eunice Ujunwa had her perfectly curled free kick punched away in the 40th minute to keep the score line at 2-0 at the end of the first half.
After the restart, Angels’ Dabrinze was denied a second goal when her ferocious shot from 25 yards was denied by the cross bar. .
Ibom Angels goalie, Andy, was called to duty in the 60th minute as Ujunwa who was clearly the outstanding player for the visitors, had her goal bound ball parried away. At this point, it looked one way traffic for the hosts.
What can unarguably be contender for goal of the season was a master piece strike from Essien. In the 85th minute, following a solo run from deep in her half, she beat off two players in a quick break, dribbled past another and immediately hammered a power curler from 22 yards out .
That defied the laws of motion to beat helpless Heartland goalie,Akin.
However, Dabrinze lost her head in 88th minute and was issued a red card after what appeared as a malicious shove of the opposition goalkeeper, after Akin denied her goal bound effort.
10-women Ibom Angels held on for the win, shutting out their rivals from getting a consolation goal.
Heartland Queens next opening game ahead of the kick off to the second half of the NWPL is the home return leg against the Angels in Owerri.
Starting XI IBOM ANGELS: Lucky Andy, Ibe Abidemi (Titus Happiness 73’), Glory Ogbonna, Uzor Favour, Ottah Celine, Igbinovia Osamudiame, Joy Enamino (Joan Etenkpa 46’), Eunice Ezeani (Uduakobong Peter 59’), Blessing Dabrinze. Charity Reuben and Emem Essein.
Substitutes not used: Fubiana Briggs, Edward Elizabeth, Ime John and Ukeme Uko.
Manager: Ogbonda Whyte
Starting XI HEARTLAND QUEENS: MaryAnn Akin, Esther Oduele, Joy Odoemenam, Chinaza Opara (Ugobest Osuji 79’), Uzor Amaka, Ebere Okechukwu, Prudent Ugoh (Onah Oluchi 59’), Glory Sunday, Eunice Ujunwa, Ugochukwu Njoku and Ezinne Wokocha (Ndidi Okeke 41’).
Substitutes not used: Esther Agbere, Chidinma Anele, Chinasa Soroibe, and MaryAnn Anele
Manager: Moses Aduku
Ibom Angels: Nil
Heartland Queens: Prudent Ugoh (29’), Ugochukwu Njoku (79’) and Ugobest Osuji (90’)
Ibom Angels: Blessing Dabinze (88’)
Heartland Queens: Nil
Ibom Angels: Emem Essein (13’ 85’), Blessing Dabrinze (32’) and Charity Reuben (57’)
Heartland Queens: Nil