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Kotoko, Hearts aim for top spot…as NC league reaches 2nd round

Asante Kotoko and Hearts are aiming top spots in their respective zones as the second round of the Normalisation Committee (NC) special league kick starts tomorrow with dicey encounters.

Kotoko currently occupy top spot in the more electrifying Northern sector zone ahead of forces such as Aduana Stars, Bechem United, Medeama, Ashgold and others.

It is not so with the Phobians who are currently in third position with 12 points behind WAFA in second position with the same number of points and new entrants, Karela at the top with 13 points.

In spite of their mixed fortunes, both sides have vowed to improve upon the first round performance, having just about seven matches to edge closer to the CAF Confederation Cup slot available for the teams.

With Kotoko already at the top, they will face a difficult test in consolidating the lead on Sunday when they travel to Berekum to face Berekum Chelsea in a reversed fixture of the competition.

Unquestionably, it will be a daunting task for the Porcupine Warriors who endured a difficult first half before breaking Chelsea down in the second leg with two goals; one from the spot.

Characteristic of Chelsea, they concentrated in the defensive and midfield areas to stifle attacks for the Asanteman Warriors and looked for counters to penetrate the Kotoko rear.

Though they were not successful with the few attempts at goal, they managed to contain their slippery attacks to stay in the game for as long as possible.

At a goal down, they were still strong with several menacing runs down the Kotoko left side but failed to get the rhythm when they get to the Kotoko area.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Gyamfi, Obed Owusu, Amos Frimpong and Jordan Opoku remained composed and joined their attackers in piling pressure on the Chelsea men who would surely vary their tactic tomorrow.

Back in front of their home fans and needing the points to better their chances of top four qualification, Chelsea will abandon that strategy to put more pressure on Kotoko and find ways of breaking the defence.

It will, however, be important that in doing so, they throw caution to the wind because the Fabulous chaps have the men to counter to hurt them.

Hearts enjoyed a smooth ride against Inter Allies in midweek and recorded a cool 2-0 win over them at the Accra Sports Stadium in midweek.

But the fact that they Tema youngsters stretched the Phobians until a second half collapse goes to suggest the trend will change this time when Allies oblige the Phobians to the Tema Stadium tomorrow.

Coming back from a disappointing defeat at WAFA three days earlier, the Phobians had adopted a ‘must-win’ mantra which they set out to achieve at all cost.

That explains the desire and enthusiasm seen on the afternoon despite the occasional threats from the Tema lads.

At the Tema Park, Hearts are expected to make their dominance felt once again and are favourites to snatch the three points even against their poor run away from home.

That may sound intriguing to many fans considering Hearts devastating performances away from their Accra Sports Stadium fortress that has seen them suffer losses to Elmina Sharks, Karela United and WAFA more recently with the win against Liberty coming as the only feat chalked away.

Perhaps, the clash against Inter Allies presents a decent chance for Hearts to right some of those wrongs but it will not come on a silver platter and the Phobians must work for it or else face another nightmare.

In other matches in the Southern sector, Dreams FC will visit the home of Elmina Sharks which is fast becoming a waterloo for many visiting clubs.

They re-established themselves as a home force when they held their own against Hearts of Oak before beating them 1-0 when they clashed at Elmina.

But Dreams FC may present a totally different opposition and would devise new strategies to tame the Sharks in front of their home crowd.

After losing their last game, WAFA will return to the Sogakope Park to avenge their mid-week loss to Dwarfs.

The statistics favour WAFA who are unbeaten at home against Dwarfs poor away run.

At Dansoman, Liberty Professionals will welcome Karela United in another dicey game.

The other matches in the Northern sector will see Medeama lock horns with Aduana Stars at the T&A Park in Tarkwa while Bechem United play host to Techiman XI Wonders.

BY ANDREW NORTEY

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