Oriental club sides Enyimba International and Heartland continued their impressive pre-season form ahead of the 2012/13 Nigeria Premier Football League(NPFL) which starts on March 9 with victories in their friendly matches played over the weekend.
The Peoples Elephants were a goal better than Akwa United in a game played at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba. They relied on the solitary strike from last season's NPL highest goal scorer, Sibi Gwar which he converted in the 57th minute off a delightfully struck free-kick about 25 yards away from the visitors’ goal area.
Gwar was a second half substitute as he replaced in-form Akombo Ukeyima. He showed the flashes of what made him emerge as the hotshot in the league last season as he got the Aba Millionaires off the mark about 15 minutes after his introduction.
Enyimba dominated the game and were guilty of calamitous misses especially in the first half when two chances were spurned by enterprising winger Amanfor Chimezie and another denied by the sharp reflexes of Akwa United goalkeeper who tipped Akombo’s long range shot to safety.
The visitors who recently called off a three week strike showed no glimpses of match rustiness as they took the match to their hosts and had a couple of opportunities of their own but were put at bay by the more alert Enyimba defence marshalled by Nura Mohammed, Bright Esieme, Udoji Chinedu and Markson Ojobo.
A delighted Gwar told Goal.com he has not gained full match fitness owing to the trip he embarked on recently but was happy to have found the back of the net.
He noted that with more training sessions and test matches like the one they had against Akwa United, he would be better prepared for the rigours of the 2012/13 season.
"I am happy to have scored today. It was not an easy match at all. Akwa United came to Aba to surprise us and they played the game of their lives as if it was a league match.
"I am still few days from full match fitness and when I hit my top form, I will be unstoppable like I was last season," Gwar said.
Meanwhile, 2011 and 2012 Federation Cup winners, Heartland took another step towards making an impact in the league with a sensational 3-1 win over Anambra-based Okagbue FC at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri on Saturday.