Abia Warriors football club of Umuahia became the first team to book a ticket to the semi-finals of the on-going South-East, South-South pre-season football tournament after they came from behind to beat, Heartland of Owerri 2-1 in a group ‘A’ encounter decided at the Ifeanyi Ubah International Stadium, Nnewi.
Heartland, who drew 1-1 with Rivers United of Port Harcourt in their first match, took the lead early in the match when lively Nnamdi Egbujor capitalised on sloppy defending by the WARRIORS to put away a rebound from a free-kick.
The Naze Millionaires led with the goal going into the tunnel but the introduction of the trio of Ifeanyi Onyeali, Osondu Jonathan and William Ubong by the WARRIORS gaffer, Rafael Everton seemed to be the tonic the Umuahia boys needed as they mesmerized their Oriental brothers and it was just a matter of time before the equaliser came and it was special.
Ndifreke Effiong, the 2016 Olympic football bronze medalist for Nigeria, moved upfront and made his presence felt almost immediately.
First, he converted a trademark free kick to draw his side level before Osondu Jonathan assisted him to net the winner in the 73rd minute.
It was a second consecutive victory for the WARRIORS after their 1-0 win over Enugu side, Inter fc on the opening day and ensured they have now qualified for the semi-finals of the competition irrespective of the result of their final encounter with Rivers United on Wednesday.
Rivers United are second in group ‘A’ with four points after they eliminated Inter fc with a 1-0 victory in the second match of the day and their final encounter with the WARRIORS will determine who tops the group.
In the first game, hosts, FC Ifeanyi Ubah kicked off their campaign on a good note with a 3-0 victory over Mourinho fc of Onitsha in a group ‘B’ game with Seka Pascal netting a brace.
Ifeanyi Ubah who led the group will try to consolidate when they take on Cynosure of Port Harcourt today while Enugu Rangers International who were surprisingly held goalless in their first game square up against Mourinho fc before Inter and Heartland take to the pitch in a game whose outcome will only be academic.