Kotoko dash Hearts’ continental dream

Author: Bernard Neequaye
Kotoko skipper, Amos Frimpong, celebrating his final penalty kick which qualified Kotoko to the final of the NC Special Competition Tier One

Accra Hearts of Oak failed to break a jinx at the Accra Sports Stadium against Kumasi Asante Kotoko on Sunday as they lost 4-5 on penalties in the Normalisation Committee's Special Competition Tier One semi-final clash, which put to their arch rivals on the brink of CAF Champions League qualification.

Kotoko win over Hearts booked them a final place match with Karela United who defeated Ashantigold by a lone goal victory at the Len Clay Stadium at Obuasi.

Kotoko skipper, Amos Frimpong’s decisive penalty kick won the day for the visitors after Black Stars returnee Mohammed Alhassan wasted his kick for Hearts to end a seven-game unbeaten ran at home.

In an over 30,000 filled capacity spectators which was dominated by the Phobians, Kotoko took the lead in five minutes after a fine finish by Abdul Fatawu Safiu who slotted home from close range through a back heel pass from Guinean player Naby Keita.

After the goal, Kotoko played tactically to avoid errors but a handball by Kotoko’s defender Abdul Ismail Ganiu led to a penalty in the 94th minute with Christopher Bonney's restoring parity parity for the Phobians with his last kick of the game.

The early goal had lifted the Porcupine Warriors as they came into the game much stronger with a lot of possession but the Phobians fought to maintain their momentum.

Hearts however played compactly with the hope of coming back into the game which nearly paid off in the 10th minute when Obeng Kwadwo Jnr's header from youngster Manaf Umar's cross forced a save from Kotoko goalie Ibrahim Danlad.

The Phobians continued their search for the equaliser sixth minutes later when another header by Benjamin Afutu from a Christopher Bonney corner failed to trouble Kotoko's Danlad.

Kotoko however got the nod to go two goals up when in-form marksman Safiu's free-kick after 20 minutes failed to go on target with the ball hitting the wall.

Hearts' determination to score the equaliser before the recess failed as a resilient Kotoko defence kept their opponents at bay to ensure the first half ended in their favour.

After the recess, coach Kim Grant of Hearts introduced bulky striker Kofi Kordzi in place of the lurking Obeng Kwadwo Jnr which paid off as the forward troubled the Kotoko defence.

Coach C.K Akonnor on the other hand brought on Stephen Nyarko for Kwame Boahene in the 56th minute as he looked retain possession.

Hearts pressed further for the equaliser but Kotoko proved stronger in defence with Wahab Adams and Abdul Ismail Ganiu partnership proving too strong to break for the hosts who dominated most parts of the second half.

Coach Grant was forced to bring on midfielder Malik Akowuah in the 64th minute who changed the game for Hearts and captained the hosts in the final 20 minutes of the match after skipper Fatawu Mohammed made way for Abubakar Traore.