Kotoko dash Hearts’ continental dream-Push them out on penalties
Accra Hearts of Oak yesterday failed to break the jinx at the Accra Sports Stadium against Kumasi Asante Kotoko as they lost 4-5 on penalties in the Special Competition Tier One semi-finals clash which put their arch rivals on the brink of CAF Champions League qualification.
Kotoko’s win over Hearts booked them a final place match with Karela United who defeated Ashantigold by a lone goal at the Len Clay Stadium at Obuasi.
A fifth minute goal by Abdul Fatawu Safiu had put the Porcupine Warriors in the lead, but an injury time strike from Christopher Bonney pushed the game into penalties which was delivered by captain Amos Frimpong.
Perhaps starved of such a local action for a while and given the performances of their respective sides, fans of both teams trooped to the Accra Stadium to fill the stands and to cheer their side to victory and the 90 minutes proved exciting with both sides exhibiting quality play, much to the delight of the spectators.
However, the Phobia fans were made to sit on tenterhooks for a greater part of the game when their side went down as early as the fifth minute after a fine finish by Abdul Fatawu Safiu who slotted home from close range through a back heel pass from Guinean player Naby Keita.
The early goal motivated the Porcupine Warriors as they came into the game much stronger with a lot of possession.
Hearts played compactly with the hope of coming back into the game which nearly paid off in the 10th minute when Obeng Kwadwo Junior’s header from youngster Manaf Umar's cross forced a save from Kotoko goalie Ibrahim Danlad.
The Phobians continued their search for the equaliser six minutes later when another header by Benjamin Afutu from a Christopher Bonney corner failed to trouble Kotoko's Danlad.
Kotoko got the chance to go up by two goals when in-form marksman Safiu's free-kick after 20 minutes failed to get on target with the ball hitting the wall.
Hearts' determination to score the equaliser before the recess failed as a resilient Kotoko defence kept them at bay to ensure the first half ended in their favour.
After the recess, Hearts’ coach Kim Grant introduced bulky striker Kofi Kordzi in place of the lurking Obeng Kwadwo Jnr which paid off as their forward troubled the Kotoko defence.
Coach Charles Kwabla Akonnor, on the other hand, brought on Stephen Nyarko for Kwame Boahene in the 56th minute as he looked to retain possession.
Desperate to equalise, Grant made further changes by introducing experienced midfielder Malik Akowuah in the 64th minute and his impact was felt as he strengthened Hearts’ midfield which reinforced their attack.
That also brought pressure to bear on the Kotoko defence and it was thus no surprise, when a melee in the Porcupine Warriors’ box saw Ganiu handle the ball and the call for a penalty by Referee George Vormawah was in order.
Bonney stepped out to convert and he did not miss, momentarily bringing the Phobians up on their feet in celebrations.
That joy was shortlived as they were left disappointed when their hardworking Mohammed, who missed his chance with the Black Stars in the final squad, missed his penalty kick, to hand Kotoko with yet another good result over their arch-rivals at the Accra Sports Stadium.