It was not a comprehensive home win. There was neither an unrestrained attacking football displayed – but Accra Hearts of Oak’s 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Bechem United in their First Capital Plus Premier League (FCPPL) yesterday was still lauded by their contingent at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Kenneth Okoro’s 25th-minute spectacular close-header flung Hearts to the 11th position on the log.
In a moment of attacking intensity, Eric Kumi scampered down the right flanks and left his marker far behind him before producing the pin-point cross which the impressive Okoro crashed past Bechem’s goalie Ernest Adu. The shouts that greeted Okoro’s effort was so deafening that one could mistake it for a league-winning goal.
“We have done it! It was embarrassing to see us at the lower rungs and I believe today’s win should take us to a decent position,” a Hearts fan told the Times Sports after the game.
Hundreds of the Hearts fans that thronged the stadium yesterday conceded it was that edge-of-the-seat, do-not-dare-blink, full-pelt sweltering heat of competitive football that had the trappings of a big final.
It was understandable. Ahead of the game, Hearts laid precariously at the 15th position – deep in the relegation zone with 32 points, while their opponents were three notches further on 34 points. Clearly, the two teams were not out of harm’s way.
Indeed, it was an engrossing afternoon of sweltering football that twisted and turned, with both Hearts and Bechem taking turns to swing their swords, charge on the offensive and retreat to catch their breath.
Hearts created the first scoring opportunity in the ninth minute, but Togolese import Foovi Aguidi – the lad who gave the Phobians all three points against Liberty Professionals in Dansoman last Wednesday, fumbled. He continued to be a blundering specimen of a co-striker until he was replaced by Isaac Mensah in the 65th minute.
But sometimes, the Phobians were dazzling, displaying the synchronicity and keenness that a team determined to escape the drop can ooze. At others, they were frayed – especially in the second half in which they totally lost the midfield, as Bechem strutted their own stuff and exhibited a mix of power and panache to run at them.
Clearly, the tension that surrounded the game was almost unbearable, and Hearts’ stand-in coach Edward Ansah stood restlessly and issued instructions to his players throughout the afternoon as Bechem’s forward of Aminu Mohammed, Coffie Bekoe, Issah Adamu and substitute Yaw Arnol kept the home team’s area on fire.
Though the visitors played radiantly well, they lacked the cutting edge to cause havoc in Hearts’ backline – and on occasions that they looked dangerous, full-house central defender and skipper Rubin Gnagne snuffed out any threat of a comeback.
In the 77th minute, midfielder Thomas Abbey – who produced a man-of-the-match performance, could have doubled the lead but shot astonishingly wide after being put through by Kumi.
At the end of it all, both teams looked wrung out and exhausted. But the battle for survival would continue unabated.
By John Vigah