Accra Hearts of Oak Sunday saw the Ghana Premier League title virtually slip from their grip as they lost 0-1 to archrivals Asante Kotoko at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi as the Porcupine Warriors moved even closer to recapturing the title.
The Phobians paid the penalty for sloppy marking by their defenders who fouled Kotoko's Brazilian player Fabio Gama for a spot kick which was converted in the 15th minute by the league's leading marksman Franck Mbella Etouga for the only goal of the match.
The victory ensured that Kotoko maintained an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals Bechem United and go 16 points adrift of Hearts who have no realistic chance of retaining the title.
The goal also stretched Etouga's tally to 16 goals on the log, five more than his closest rival Bright Adjei of Aduana Stars.
Yesterday's encounter, the biggest clash on the football calendar, failed to live up to its billing as a five-star clash as Hearts looked too ordinary on the day. The Phobians lacked the midfield spark provided in recent times by veteran Sulley Muntari, who missed yesterday's clash, and invention in attack. Without the inspiring presence of Muntari, Hearts looked up to Gladson Awako to run the show from midfield.
Surprisingly, Awako froze on an afternoon a lot of expected of him as the Phobians looked a pale shadow of the side that held Kotoko to a scoreless draw in the first round and followed up with a love goal victory in the President's Cup days later in Accra.
Not even the introduction of forward Kofi Kordzi and speedster, Patrick Razak, who scored the winning goal for Hearts against Kotoko in the President's Cup last month, could salvage the day for the league champions.
Once Kotoko took the early lead, they kept the Phobians at arm's length to record a famous victory which took them closer to another league title.
On a low scoring weekend, Bechem United defeated Bibiani Goldstars 1-0 at home to keep the pressure on Kotoko, Great Olympics fought back from a goal own to beat visiting Aduana Stars 2-1 with a late winner by Arnold Abbey-Mensah during added-on time to keep the Wonder Club in fourth place just behind Medeama who beat RTU 2-1 at the Akoon Park to Push the 'Pride of the North' into the relegation zone in 16th place on the log.