Kotoko defend Pres Cup …Beat Hearts 4-1 on penalties

Kotoko players celebrate with the trophy

Kotoko players celebrate with the trophy

Kumasi Asante Kotoko staged a successful defense of the annual President’s Cup with a 4-1 penalty shoot-out victory over Accra Hearts of Oak yesterday at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium to lift this year’s glittering trophy.

Kotoko won last year’s edition also on the lottery of shoot-outs after converting three of their kicks against two by the Phobians to confirm their superiority over the Phobians as far as the spot kicks were concerned.

Unlike Sunday’s game that was rained off at 1-1, yesterday’s encounter ended goalless after both sides squandered a number of begging chances, the closest being a clearance on the goal line by Kotoko’s Evan Quao to Hearts’ Patrick Razak’s connection to a cut-in from the right.

Heavy rains that hit the metropolis on Sunday forced officials to reschedule the match with 27 minutes of play left.

Despite a reduction in the crowd size, attendance was still encouraging for a Hearts-Kotoko showdown which gave referee William Agbovi a hell of a time as players played it tough and rough.

That notwithstanding, it was a beautiful afternoon of good football of two halves as the Phobians had the upperhand in the first half with Kotoko enjoying greater dominance in the second half.

Once again, the Porcupine Warriors had problems containing the predatory instincts of Patrick Razak who proved a thorn in the flesh of the Porcupines.

Saddick Adams was the dangerman for Kotoko on Sunday but was started yesterday from the bench, leaving the attacking responsibilities on the shoulders of Emmanuel Gyamfi and Baba Mahama who had a field day in midfield where they used their magnificent skills to great advantage, forcing the Hearts midfielders to resort to some tough tackles.

That marred the otherwise free flowing soccer as Kotoko players joined the fray, visiting some rough tackles on Hearts players and were lucky to have seen Saddick Adams and goalkeeper Felix Annan play for the full duration after engaging in acts that should have seen them expelled.

Annan crashed into an advancing Kwame Kizito outside the goal area when he was the last man, while Adams attacked Vincent Atinga who also could have been expelled had Agbovi seen an intentional stamp on Adams’ left foot.

Hearts had the clearest chance in the half in the 34th minute but Patrick Razak watched his low grounder that had beaten keeper Felix Annan cleared by Evans Quao who found himself at the right place to make that timely clearance.

That followed the moment Keeper Felix Annan collided with Kizito who got injured in the process and was replaced by Paul Acquah.

Kotoko’s onslaughts, led by Baba Mahama met the resistance of Hearts’ rearguard pivoted around Robin Gnagne and Vincent Atinga, the very defenders who let the Phobians down at the shoot-outs.

The second half was not different from the first as both sides attempted to get the opener but with Kotoko in the driving seat.

A scary run into the Kotoko area saw Emmanuel Gyamfi latched on a teasing pass which he controlled first before delivering an inch-perfect cross for Baha Mahama who watched in awe as his header cannoned off the bar with the rebound cleared to safety in the 66th minute.

Moments later, Kotoko introduced Saddick Adams for Mohammed Yakubu as they aimed to sustain the pressure on the seemingly tired Hearts back men.

Adams, however, lost focus after a foul on him by Atinga which attracted sympathies by many but his reaction put him in a bad light as he charged and nearly exchanged punches with the Hearts defender.

As to how he escaped unpunishment from that act, only referee Agbovi can explain. Perhaps, he may also have to explain whether he saw the Atinga stamp that infuriated the attacker.

Both sides tried to get the opener in the last 10 minutes of the game with Kotoko seeing more of the ball as an injury to Leonard Tawiah relinquished the midfield battle to Kotoko as Malik Akowuah was more like a stranger in the game.

In the shoot-outs, Kotoko delivered excellent kicks from Evans Quao, Amos Frimpong, Jackson Owusu and Saddick Adams with goalkeeper Felix Annan saving Vincent Atinga’s kick, Robin Gnagne ballooning into the skies and Richard Akrofie scoring the consolation to hand Kotoko the trophy.

From Kingsley E. Hope, Kumasi 

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