It was expected to be a definite three points against Heartland of Owerri , the lowest-ranked team in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) so far, but it turned into a daunting experience that almost ended in a loss, but for Jonathan Alukwu's 100th-minute equaliser.
The Mobolaji Johnson Arena was agog with fans of Sporting Lagos, and chants of 'Go, Sporting, go' were heard as the newly promoted side hosted their opponents on Sunday evening in Lagos. Confidence was high because Sporting Lagos had demolished four-time NPFL champions Kano Pillars 3-0 in their last home match.
It was like a party atmosphere with drinks, snacks, and food aplenty.
The fans were active in cheering on the Sporting Lagos players as they commenced pre-match drills. But the chants, the cheers, and the moral support started ebbing when the first half ended 0-0. And when Chinedu Ike scored for Heartland in the 75th minute, the fans did not know where to turn. Apprehension and anxiety turned into anger as the fans started heckling Sporting Lagos players.
Sporting Lagos General Manager, Godwin Enekhena, eventually appeased some of the supporters to stay calm when they became infuriated by the antics of Heartland goalkeeper Chisom Chiaha.The security operatives and General Manager @genakhena are appealing to the fans to keep calm. #Sundaywithsporting #npfl24 pic.twitter.com/q2qWw6cGZD
Oluwaferanmi Omoniyi (@Preacherpen) November 19, 2023
Some highlights of the match revolved around Jonathan Alukwu and Junior Lokosa's missed goal attempts and Rivio Anyemere's early substitution to injury.Alukwu's missed chances
Traditionally, Sporting Lagos starts in a frenetic manner, trying to score an early goal. They followed the same script on Sunday. Jonathan Alukwu had the first goal-scoring opportunity in the third minute, but his anxiety prevented him from finding the target. He was hoping to follow Junior Lokosa's example by scoring against his former club. Alukwu had other chances in the sixth and 15th minutes but failed to capitalise.
Those missed goal-scoring attempts put the hosts under pressure, with Alukwu telling PREMIUM TIMES after the game how he was under pressure.
"I was anxious to score. I believe that was the main reason I didn't get the best goal as of then because I needed to have this composure around the goal area, he said.READ ALSO: Nigerian stocks rebound after positive GDP report
The forward eventually scored the equaliser in the 100th minute. He said the second half was rough for his team because of the style of play and antics of their visitors.
"Yeah, because of the way they play, they always fall on the ground, and it really affected us because we are known for active football."Heartland wanted a point in that game
Heartland's game plan was to stay compact and not concede cheap goals.
After they got the goal, they went to a man-to-man marking tactic all over the pitch, leaving just Onyekachi Okafor upfront.
Coach Christian Obi would have had Chisom Chiaha to thank if the scoreline had ended 1-0 in Heartland's favour. The goalkeeper was active throughout the game aside from his frivolities, which included the time-wasting tactics he showed toward the end of the game.