AFTER all the sweltering debates and hot pre-match predictions, Kumasi Asante Kotoko on Sunday grabbed the bragging rights over Accra Hearts of Oak with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at the Accra Sports Stadium.
That decisive win, a sweet revenge for the Asanteman contingent, powered the Reds to eighth position on the First Capital Plus Premier League (FCPPL) log, while Hearts slipped to an incredible 15th spot – very deep in relegation zone.
With five games to roll the curtain down on this season’s campaign, there are still 15 good points left to wrestle for and the remaining games would certainly be fought with ferocious intensity – either for survival or for the ultimate silverware.
Clearly, the cynosure of all eyes will be on the struggling Hearts who storm the Carl Reindorf Park this afternoon as guests of 10th-placed Liberty Professionals.
The two clubs shared the spoils in a lack-lustre 1-1 game when they clashed in a mid-week tie in Accra on February 4. Tamimu Muntari opened the scoring for the ‘Scientific Soccer’ lads in the first half, before Richard Yamoah headed home the much-needed equaliser late in the second half.
This afternoon’s cagey engagement is a different ball-game for Hearts who need nothing except victory to lift themselves from the doldrums and offer them the much-needed platform to stage a stirring fight-back.
Sunday’s defeat aside, Hearts exhibited a near-booming performance – but momentary loss of concentration at their backline let them down badly. Once again, the Phobians have been given yet another opportunity this afternoon to right the wrong, as chieftains of the club have promised a hefty amount of cash should they pluck the result over the Professionals.
Any result apart from victory would push Hearts into deeper woes and that is what they hope to avoid.
Even outside the relegation bracket – from the 13th position (Lions, 31 points), 12th (New Edubiase, 33 points), 11th (Bechem United, 33 points), 10th (Liberty Professionals, 34 points), 9th (Medeama SC, 34 points) and 8th (Kotoko, 35 points), none of them can consider themselves to be in the arms of safety.
The good news, however, is that there is a ‘cool’ 15 points up for grabs in the remaining fixtures – and the contestants would be expected to ‘spill their blood’ for what potentially could guarantee their survival.
Wonder Club Accra Great Olympics appear to be in fine fettle. The Dade boys have remained unbeaten in their last three games, plucking a vintage 1-1 draw against a dreaded Hasaacas side in no less a place than the Essipun stadium in Sekondi where Ashantigold, Hearts and Kotoko have all fallen.
However, Oly have a Herculean assignment this afternoon as they welcome third-placed and title contenders Berekum Chelsea (40 points) to the Accra Sports Stadium. Against all the odds, Oly put up a stirring performance to beat a high-fancied Medeama side at the same venue a fortnight ago – and could be inspired to push the Blues to the guillotine.
Ashantigold (44 points) have managed to keep a three-point lead off the pack, but unless they do something to their less-inspiring away performance, the Miners could find themselves in a big fix against Bechem United at Bechem.
In other fascinating ties, Lions are favoured to beat relegation-threatened and 16th-placed BA United (19 points) in Kpando; sixth-placed WAFA (37 points) dare Medeama at the T&A Park in Tarkwa, while second-placed Aduana (41 points) are highly tipped to beat seventh-placed Sekondi Hasaacas (37 points).
After their vintage victory over arch-rival Hearts, Kotoko should be goaded enough to account for fifth-placed Wa All Stars (38 points) at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, but fourth-placed and imposing Inter Allies (39 points) would find in Edubiase a tough nut to crack at the Len Clay Sports Stadium.
By John Vigah