The Boys Played According To The Game Plan – Ayeni
Ifegwu Ojukwu’s goal proved decisive as Sunshine Stars moved out of the relegation zone after an accomplished 1-0 victory over Heartland on a wet Sunday’s night at the Dan Anyiam Stadium.
The Owena Whales were full value for the win in the match day 31 contest delayed by three hours to kick off under floodlights at 7pm due to a heavy downpour in Owerri.
Coach Deji Ayeni kept fate with the same line up that defeated Wikki Tourists on match day 30 and they proved worthy with a show of character and tactical discipline to ward off the hosts who were looking to overran them in the early stages.
The visitors came alive from the 10th minute with the Wazobia attacking trio of Fuad Ekelojuoti, Sadeeq Yusuf and Ojukwu creating all sort of problems for the Heartland backline to deal with.
First it took a last ditch slide tackle to deny Ojukwu his first real chance at goal after a lovely team work, while veteran goalkeeper, Chijioke Ejiogu reacted promptly to stop Ekelojuoti from pouncing on the match hero’s low cross in the 32′
Two minutes before the break Ejike’s header was parried onto the path of Ojukwu, but his tame effort could not beat Ejiogu, then Saliu Suleiman had to intervene with a decisive save at the other end to ensure Sunshine Stars do not trail at the interval.
The Naze Millionaires again tried swarmed the visitors area at the restart, but could only warmed the gloves of Suleiman who stood firm behind a well organised backline marshalled by Kehinde Adeyemi.
Second half substitute, Kolade Adeniji set the stage for the match defining moment when he surged forward with the ball before serving Ojukwu to spin home a cross that was misjudged by Ejiogu at the stroke of the hour mark.
Suleiman got pennalised for alleged time wasting 17 minutes from time, however the visitors were relieved to see Heartland fired high from the contentious indirect free kick awarded them inside Sunshine Stars’ area.
The Akure landlords did not stop creating and almost put the game to bed with five minutes remaing when Yusuf’s fierce effort from an acute angle off Ekelojuoti’s diagonal ball strayed to the side-netting.
Sunshine Stars back line, supplemented by the collective force held firm for the final minutes to secure the win that gave them a leap up to 16th on the log, pending the outcome of Nasarawa versus Jigawa match on Monday.
AYENI’S POST MATCH QUOTES
“I am elated, the boys played according to the game plan and it really worked. When I came on board I told them our situation is redeemable, the only thing is to get our mindset right for our winning mentality and you can see the result.
“No team is invincible; we just have to put our best, be ready and play according to our match plan and everything will work out well by the grace of God”
Sunshine Stars will remain in Owerri to battle Kogi United for a place in the AITEO Cup round of 16 on Wednesday, before returning Akure to host Kano Pillars on NPFL match day 32.
Sunshine XI | Suleiman; Yakub, Adeyemi (C), Ejike, James, Bello, Adedipe (Ugonna 52) Ekelojuoti, (Abisoye 86′), Ajani (Adeniji 52), Yusuf, Ojukwu
Unused Subs | Ayodele; Ewelike, Olulayo, Olalusi, Akinlose, Oluwole
Cautions | Adedipe 44+4′ Suleiman 73′ Yakubu 82′
Media Officer; Sunshine Stars FC
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