Ekwueme Tico/Select Pre-season Tourney: Heartland, Rangers book semi-final tickets

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Abia Warriors and Rivers United played an entertaining goalless draw in one of Matchday Three of the Ifeanyi Ekwueme Tico/Select Pre-season Tournament played at the Dayn Anyiam Stadium, Owerri yesterday.

Before the game, Abia Warriors defeated First Mahi 4-0 from the only game they had played while Rivers United woke up from their 2-0 loss to Heartland FC to beat Apex Krane by the same scores.

Both teams knew only a win would put them in the right stead for semi-final qualification and they were at daggers Drawn throughout the encounter.

The game ended goalless and Abia Warriors remained in second spot with four points and plus four goals difference while Rivers United who have played three games are third with four points and goals difference of zero ahead of the final group games.

Earlier, Heartland FC held on tenaciously to the top spot at the Owerri centre with the maximum nine points after they pipped hard-fighting Apex Krane by a lone goal scored through enterprising Okey Peter Nwadike in the 37th minute.

Nwadike blasted his freekick from about 20 yards to the roof of the net to the bewilderment of Apex Krane’s goalkeeper. He took his goals tally to three from three games.

In-form Enugu Rangers’ diminutive winger, Chidiebere Nwobodo continued his fine goals scoring form in the ongoing Ifeanyi Ekwueme Tico/Select Preseason Tournament holding inside UNEC Stadium, Enugu, as he scored his 6th of the tourney and assisted with the other in yesterday’s 2-0 win over Enugu Active All-Stars FC.

The troika of Tope Olusesi, Ugochukwu Ugwuoke, and Chinonso Eziekwe were not available for selection as they traveled for the NPFL/Budweiser ‘All-Star Game’ but coach Abdul Maikaba had enough in his armory to unleash on the opposition that had such names as the goalkeeper, Uche Okafor, John Nnam, Chibuzor Madu, Christian Obiozor, Ogechukwu Anyora, Michael Uchebo, Bishop Onyeudo, and others.

After missing some chances earlier in the game as Christian Nnaji, Shedrack Asiegbu, Agu Kenechukwu and Julius Ikechukwu combined well upfront but Uche Okafor was alert to his duties. There was no stopping Nwobodo In the 43rd minute as he raced onto an Adewale Doyeni’s deep pass from defence to outpace his marker and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way for the opening goal of the feisty encounter.

Substitute, Daniel Vendaga netted the second goal of the match in the 71st minute as he was set up by a very impressive Nwobodo who reacted fastest to an Ernest Governor’s defencee splitting pass.

Elijah Ani and Christian Nnaji both had chances to increase the scoreline but found Uche Okafor too difficult to beat as the referee brought proceedings to an end.

The ‘Flying Antelopes’ comfortably lead Group A of the 3rd edition of the pre-season tourney put together by former Super Eagles, Ifeanyi Ekwueme with the support of his business partners, Tico/Select kit manufacturers with seven points from three matches scoring eight goals and conceding two.

Lamray United who defeated Cynosure FC through Chukwuebuka Okorie’s first half strike are second with four points from two games with Ingas FC having a point thus far.

Today, Heartland FC will conclude their group game with a tough tie with Abia Warriors in Owerri while First Mahi will slug it out with Rivers United in a game the Pride of Rivers must win to keep hope of qualifying for the semi-final alive.

In Enugu, Rangers will conclude their group games with a fixture with Ingas FC.

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