S unshine Stars’ push for a continental place finish in the 2021/22 NPFL season took a hit on matchday 36, following a 1-0 loss to relegation-threatened Heartland at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri.
The Owena Whales made a strong start to the game and asked the hosts all the questions from the get-go, with Azeez Ajagbe hitting the frame in the first minute.
Sunshine Stars should have grabbed the opener in the fifth minute as Chigozie Chilekwu set up Samson Olasupo with a perfectly-weighted cross, however the striker’s header went off the target.
Despite creating chances, the visitors fell behind in the opening half, no thanks to a goal scored by Adejoh Ojonugwa in the 36th minute.
Japhet Opubo pulled a great save from a fierce volley at the stroke of half time, then six minutes into the restart Leonard Ugochukwu flashed a ball across the face of goal following a good run down the right channel.
Opubo was again called into action 18 minutes from time, tipping over from a dangerous curler to keep the Emmanuel Deutcsh tinkered boys in the contest.
The Akure landlords upped the ante in the closing stages, but the decisiveness in the final third was lacking as the Naze Millionaire hanged on by the skin of their teeth to secure all points.
Sunshine Stars next face Remo Stars in a Southwest derby on the penultimate match of the season.