El-Kanemi Warriors continued their superb form at home in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) by defeating relegation-threatened Heartland 1-0 on Saturday.
Ibrahim Mustapha, who recently returned to the country following a failed attempt to move to the Egyptian league, scored the winning goal for El-Kanemi.
El-Kanemi head coach, Ladan Bosso, had to make a late change in their starting lineup when it emerged that Mohammed Zubairu had suffered from pinkeye. It meant that Lukman Abdulkareem, who was left out of the matchday squad entirely, had to be recalled straight into the starting team.
Emmanuel Iwu was preferred in goal by Heartland gaffer, Ramson Madu, ahead of the experienced Ebele Obi, who was named among the substitutes.
El-Kanemi did not allow Heartland to settle in before they swooped on them. Seven minutes into the match, Mustapha and Chinedu Ohanachom combined and the former headed just off target.
If Heartland did not heed the warning three minutes earlier when Ohanachom and Mustapha combined, the latter punished them when he headed his team in front.
Haliru Hashim should have doubled El-Kanemi’s lead but he could only direct his header straight at Heartland goalkeeper Iwu.
On 16 minutes, Emeka Ogbugh failed to make a one-on-one chance count for Heartland.
Just before the break, Emeka Ogbugh had a glorious chance to give El-Kanemi a two-goal cushion, but he allowed goalkeeper Mohammed Usman and Abdulkareem to clear their line.
Ten minutes into the restart, Heartland had their hearts in their mouths when Ohanachom’s header hit the crossbar.
On the hour, Ohanachom missed a one-on-one with El-Kanemi goalkeeper, Usman.
Twenty minutes from time, Heartland protested over a spot kick appeal after Lucky Erumiya felled Heartland’s Prince Dike in the box, but ref Femi Samson waved play on and within seconds players of the Owerri club staged a walkout for more than 10 minutes.
On resumption after the protest, Heartland went gung-ho on El-Kanemi but the hosts held firmed to claim a 12th successive home win.
The win puts El-Kanemi in 10th place on 45 points while Heartland remain deep in the drop zone.