Heartland play for pride
Despite their elimination from the 2010 Orange CAF Champions League, Heartland say they will go into their last game against Group B leaders JS Kabylie on Sunday with pride on their minds.
The 2009 losing finalists’ dream of advancing to the semifinals of the competition was ended by record six-time winners Egypt’s Al Ahly, who defeated the visitors 2-1 at the Cairo International Stadium on September 12.
The result of Sunday’s match at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, will make no difference in Group B, though.
Even if Kabylie lose, they will still remain on top of the log with 13 points while the best result will put Heartland on seven points, which would still not guarantee them a place in the semifinals of the competition.
“We will play them (Kabylie) like every other game. We are playing for pride now that we are out of the competition. We lost narrowly away to the Algerians in the first fixture and I believe if we had kept our heads, we would have come out of the match with a better result. Hopefully we should do better at home because if we win the last game, we will bring back our pride a little,” Siasia said.
The former Nigeria striker expressed disappointment at the defeat in Egypt.
“Really, I am disappointed because we should have won or at least drawn the match in Cairo. Sometimes you wish for things but they don’t just work out the way you want it.
“We have to accept our defeat but we didn’t play well in midfield even if we had the better possession. What is possession when you don’t score? Football is about scoring but we didn’t do that.
“Also, we lost too many balls in midfield but I think this is a big lesson. In the defence, we made costly mistakes that cost us goals.
“In fact, it was double tragedy for us because our strikers were not scoring and our backline were not able to stop the opponents from scoring,” Siasia said.
On preparations for the Kabylie match, he said, “We went back to training after we returned from Egypt and I have told the players that they must give the match their all. They have to fight until the final whistle. We need the three points at stake.
“We respect the Algerians. They are a very good side but they are beatable. Heartland are a force to reckon with in Africa too but in football, things like this happen. We must go back and prepare ahead of next season. We have learnt our lessons the hard way.”
Heartland media officer Cajetan Nwaopara said the Naze Millionaires’ image was at stake and would ensure that they leave the competition with their heads held high.
“People say the match is a mere formality but for us there’s a lot at stake. Right now, our image is in the dust and we must redeem it by winning on Sunday. At least the win will give us something to cheer about.
“For a team who came close to winning the competition last year, we must ensure that we don’t go out like that without a fight.
“And that is why we started camping on Wednesday in Nnewi, close to Owerri. Everybody’s minds are geared towards winning the match.
Ismaily, former champions of the competition, who crashed out a day before Heartland courtesy of Nigerian-born Kabylie forward, Izu Azuka’s lone strike in Algeria, will play Ahly at home in another formality tie same day.
The Egyptian club, which once paraded Nigerian forward, John Utaka, are last in Group B with three points while Ahly, with eight points, join Kabylie in progressing to the semifinal.