Hearts humble Kotoko … In 1st leg Ghana @60 Anniversary Cup match

RAZAKA cacophony of joy and a melancholy of defeat lit up the all-rainy skies covering the Accra Sports Stadium yesterday as Accra Hearts of Oak humbled sworn rivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko 3-1 in the first leg tie of the Ghana@60 Anniversary Cup match.

The celebration that followed the compelling victory was rapturous and euphoric.

For Kotoko, it was revenge that never was, following their heart-throbbing 1-0 loss to Hearts in a league match at the same venue on March 19.

That win was the first time in seven years the Phobians got it right against Kotoko who protested Referee Samuel Sukah’s late penalty decision with the fury of a Matador.

Hearts’ hero in that famous game, Vincent Atinga,   proved a huge factor in the air, this time too. He may not have found the back of the net yesterday but played extremely well at the rear in a game that generated an amperage of thrills, glitz and pizzazz throughout the entire soggy afternoon.

Drowned out by a booming crowd and stadium music, the game was graced by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Ministers of State, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, ex-national footballers and an assemblage of revered football administrators among many other luminaries.

If there was copious controversy about the Hearts March 19 win, what was seen yesterday had none of it as the most loyal Kotoko faithful conceded that they lost to a better side.

Playing to the rhythmic chants provided by pet fans of the two teams who had defied the downpour, It was the Hearts’ attacking armada of Patrick Razak, Cosmos Dauda and Sam Yeboah who poured forward in bursts looking to steal the advantage but missed dolefully.

ThomasSimilar scenes were evident of the Kotoko game as Obed Owusu, Frank Sarfo Gyamfi and Michael Akuffo lost their bearing in front of goal to end a barren half of missed opportunities.

Kotoko, who have gone six matches without a win in the Premier League, started the second stanza in poignant mood, splashing the field with some sumptuous dish of football.

But just as their game seem to be hitting a crescendo, Hearts substitute Kwame Kizito stole the ball from goalkeeper Felix Annan whose pointless effort to dribble past him rather slumped into a calamitous howler as the striker calmly slotted into the net for the opener.

Blood-curdling cries were heard in Kumasi as the Phobians celebrated that opportunistic goal.

Interestingly, the cracking noise that greeted the 66th minute opener had hardly died down when Awal Mohammed soared like a Russian rocket to robustly head in Michael Akuffo’s delicate free-kick few metres off the area.

The stadium turned into something else. The noise from the superb equaliser was almost unbearable.

The two teams, now fully settled, began to entertain the crowd with some chocolate-box football until Hearts raced into the lead again. This time, it was skipper Thomas Abbey who cracked home the advantage in the 88th minute with a sweet left-footed corker – exploiting a sloppy Kotoko backline to slam past Felix Annan.

Clearly, Kotoko appeared to have been deflated by that late goal and would see their situation made worse by a striker in his elements – Patrick Razak, who stretched the game beyond the reach of their ancient rivals on the nick of full time.

Indeed, the lad who stole the show yesterday was Razak. His pace, elegance, poise, strength, self-assurance and sheer power were just a delight to watch. Little wonder, he was adjudged man-of-the-match on an afternoon competently handled by Bolgatanga-based referee Prosper Adii.

The return leg encounter is slated for the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi on May 28.

By John Vigah

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