Hearts share honours with Kotoko in league thriller
The nation’s most glamorous Clubs, Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko played out a barren game in the Week Seven Glo Premier League top-liner at the Accra Sports Stadium on Sunday.
The sold-out game failed to produce a winner in the 50th league game involving the two sides. It was the 21st stalemate as far as matches between the two sides are concerned with Hearts of Oak as the hosts.
The match lived up to its billing as the biggest game of the first round of the League which was characterized by the usual on and off the pitch side attractions from both ends.
It all started when the Phobians warmed up with a replica of the jersey they wore during their 4-0 thrashing of Asante Kotoko in 2000, stating clearly their intent of repeating the dose and it was not to end there as the 22-players of both teams gathered in the centre-circle of the pitch for the usual pre-match prayers, a scenario which drew applause from the fans of both teams.
Tempers were at fever-pitch and once Tamale-based referee Awal Mohammed signaled both teams into action, tackles flew in from left and right from the actors of both sides.
The Phobians adopted a physical approach into the game obviously to imbibe fear into the Kotoko attacking duo of Ahmed Toure and Nathaniel Asamoah. However, it was the Porcupine Warriors who made the first attempt at goal through midfielder Yahaya Mohammed whose long range effort was met with a diving save by Hearts goalie Sammy Adjei.
On 25 minutes, Kotoko were gifted with the best chance for the opener with Michael Anaba putting Asamoah through, but the latter shot wide with only keeper Adjei at his mercy.
Soon it was the turn of the Phobians with enterprising midfielder Uriah Asante as the main architect. Asante laid a pass to Mahatma Otoo for Otoo to drive in a shot which was cleared by Kotoko defender Awal Mohammed.
The game was so tension-packed that by the half-hour mark, four players had been booked, two from either side; Philip Boampong and Moro Abubakar on the part of Hearts and Kotoko’s duo of Mohammed and goalkeeper Soulama Abdoulaye also being the culprits.
Eight minutes from recess, Asante sustained an injury and was replaced by Samuel Nzemaba, an occurrence which affected the Phobians’ total attack. Asante was by far the best Hearts player till his exit and Coach Nebojsa Vucecivic had no option than to vary his tactics.
Action was centred in the midfield with Anaba, Michael Akuffu, Yahaya and Daniel Nii Adjei on the side of Kotoko and Moro Abubakar, Isaac Ofori and Douglas Nkrumah of Hearts tasting possession often.
On the stroke of half time, Hearts goalie Adjei came to his side’s rescue with a ‘zigzag’ save of Yayaha’s thunderbolt of a free-kick around the edge of the penalty area and another rebound from Asamoah made no impact on the Phobians.
The tempo of the gamed died in the second half but it was Nkrumah who almost broke the deadlock with a curling free-kick that kissed the crossbar on 56 minutes to safety.
Kotoko coach Maxwell Konadu pulled out Anaba and Nii Adjei for David Ofei and Michael Mensah and their presence immediately reflected in their attack.
On 63 minutes, Ofei broke down on the right and put Toure through, but Hearts goalie Adjei was again came to his side’s rescue by saving the goal-bound shot with his feet.
In the 72nd minute, Yayaha was unlucky in his quest to put Kotoko through with characteristic thunderbolts from set-pieces as his effort struck the inside of the crossbar with Hearts goalie Adjei completely beaten this time round.
As the game inched towards the finish line, the fans lightened the atmosphere with cheers and chants anytime an infringement was in their side’s favour.
Kotoko appeared worn-out and Hearts capitalized on that by piling pressure on them but lacked the cutting upfront to carry the day.
One of the interesting moments of the game was in the 86th minute when Hearts Boampong ushered Ivorian-import Toure out of play and vice versa for his replacement Nafiu Iddrisu. It brought back memories of his brother Daniel Coleman, who gave then Kotoko forward Eric Bekoe a seemingly no breather in a similar derby three years ago at the same venue.
On the 90th minute mark, the packed stadium erupted with loud cheers from the fans ostensibly to ‘fire’ on their preferred team to victory in added-on time, but it never materialized as the game ended in a deadlock to cool down the tension of the top-liner of the League.