Lucky Emariojake struck the woodwork from the spot as an unfortunate Heartland suffered the ignominy of a home defeat to Rangers International in a derby played at the Dan Anyiam Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Gbenga Ogunbote-led visitors had been bested on both of their first two topflight outings by Akwa United and Lobi Stars respectively but found their latest opponents a tad more pliable in the breathless first half which ensued in Owerri.
Fleet-footed winger, Silas Bright shot Rangers into the lead ten minutes in, profiting from a fortuitous chance to tuck in from a cross after the hosts had failed to clear their lines.
The enterprising Silas who looked bright and full of life for much of the opening exchanges would yet play in Chiamaka Madu fifteen minutes after scoring but the midfielder’s effort went wide as the visitors continued their early onslaught.
After visiting goaltender, Femi Thomas had kept out Jimoh Olawale’s header with a finger tip save to keep the lone-goal lead intact, Heartland were handed a lifeline to get back into the game when Shedrack Francis was adjudged to have blocked Fuad Ekelojuoti’s shot in the area. But Emariojake somehow saw his effort from the resultant penalty kick come off the upright, thus fluffing their best chance of going into the intermission on level terms.
The woodwork would yet deny the hosts after the restart as substitute Francis Momoh teed up Ekelojuoti who would only strike the crossbar from six-yard out as the plethora of misses continued to pile for Ramson Madu’s side who would have been left livid with his team’s display.
The framework curse was not done for the hosts though as John Chukwudi who was making his first start for Heartland in the encounter thought he had grabbed the share of spoils for his side after sprightingly beating his marker in the box but agonisingly saw his shot yet again come off the crossbar with just five minutes left on the clock.
Heartland were however, left to rue those avalanche of missed chances as it ended 1-0 while Enugu Rangers who just about held on for the victory would undoubtedly be thanking their stars after their dogged performance and would hope to kick start their good fortunes for the new campaign from there.
Up next for the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium outfit is a home date with league newcomers, Katsina United while Heartland would hope for better fortunes when they travel to the Krisdera Hotel Stadium to take on fellow newbies, Go Round FC on Wednesday.
Photo credit: @HeartlandFC_ng