Accra Hearts of Oak defeated Kumasi Asante Kotoko 1-0 in a match week 10 game of the 2018 Ghana Premier League played at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.
Patrick Razak’s second half strike condemned the Porcupine Warriors to their 4th defeat of the 2018 season and moved the Phobians leveled on points with their bitterest rivals.
Both teams started on a square, looking to grab the early initiative but the opening 20 minutes remained uneventful, aside the occasional rough tackle that sparked a reaction from the fans.
It was almost as if the game was a season opener with both teams handing out debuts to players in the game.
Paa Kwesi Fabin wasted no time in throwing Burkinabe national, Sogne Yacouba, straight into the action for the first time. Despite having trained with the squad since the beginning of the campaign, his registration was only completed at the start of the new transfer window which opened a few days ago. And he initially struggled to impress upfront, along with Fredrick Boateng.
For Kwadwo Obeng Junior, who was playing his first Hearts of Oak game, it could not have come with more pressure as he was tasked with the arduous task of leading the line for the Phobians, flanked by Patrick Razak and Joseph Esso.
It took until the 20th minute before the game started to open up. Emmanuel Gyamfi had the first real chance of the game, shooting wide from the edge of the box when he should have at least hit the target. Minutes later, Joseph Esso sent a carpet shot that flew across the face of Felix Annan’s goal.
The game had now moved into second gear. In the 37th minute, Yacouba, who had now settled into the groove of the game, was brought down on the edge of the box. The Kotoko fans shouted for a penalty but referee Timothy Obuobisa only awarded a free-kick which Ben Mensah then saved from Yacouba’s curler.
Hearts of Oak had their own penalty shout turned down on the stroke of half time; Wahab Adams’ sweeping clearance on Patrick Razak only earning the latter a corner.
Neither side got the breakthrough in the first half.
The second half began much like the first; cagey affair interlaced with ricochet shots. Kotoko were denied the opening goal on 55 minutes; a combination of great goalkeeping from Ben Mensah and the crossbar denying the impressive Yacouba from dipping in a 20 yard free-kick. The ball looked destined for the top corner but Mensah rose high to tip it onto the woodwork.
Within minutes, Hearts of Oak were down the other end; forcing Felix Annan, who had not done much all afternoon, to dive low to keep out Patrick Razak’s acrobatic overhead kick.
A ding-dong affair was now fully in motion. Benjamin Agyare headed out a goal-bound effort from Kotoko before the Phobians stung in the opposite direction.
Winful Cobbinah picked up the loose ball after Kotoko failed to clear a short corner, slipped the ball to Patrick Razak, who cut inside skipping past two Kotoko players in the process, before unleashing a vicious strike onto the roof of the net, his third of this campaign. Nothing, anyone could do about it, not even the ever impressive Felix Annan in the Kotoko goal.
It was befitting that the goal was scored at the end where the Phobian supporters had converged, vociferous all afternoon, but the decibels went out of range when that ball hit the back of the net. Razak skipped over the advertising board, and run to celebrate with the Hearts fans.
The contrast of emotions after the goal was as clear as day, with the Kotoko fan base rooted to their seats in the other end, stunned.
The goal had now lifted the Phobians and given them a new confidence only the opening goal against your bitterest rivals can give you. And they almost forced Kotoko into conceding a second, after Fatawu Mohammed’s cross was turned goalwards by Amos Frimpong but Annan was alert to clear the danger.
Kotoko threw everything forward in search of the equalizer. Obed Owusu replaced Emmanuel Gyamfi while Yakubu Mohammed came on for Frederick Boateng. Kotoko should have had their leveler through Yacouba but the Burkinabe put his header over the bar from six yards with no one marking him.
But that was to be the last significant action in the game as Hearts of Oak wrapped up an impressive victory over their rivals at enemy territory. It was a job well done from the Phobians. And while Edward Odoom deserves credit for getting his selections spot on, the players themselves would be proud of that performance; one that was filled with soul and hearts of oak.