KUMASI Asante Kotoko crushed rival Hearts of Oak’s dream of representing Ghana in next year’s CAF Champions League when they gained a 5-4 penalty win over their bitter opponents in their semi-final Normalisation Committee Special Tier 1 competition at the Accra Sports stadium.
Amos Frimpong’s final penalty sent the impressive Porcupine following into rapturous jubilations after Hearts centre-back Mohammed Alhassan fluffed his penalty.
The Phobians snatched a late-gasp equaliser to get back into the tie after referee adjudged a Kotoko defender to have handled the ball inside his 18-yard box, in added-on time.
Christopher Bonney then struck home for the homeside to send the game into the lottery of penalties.
The game was marred by constant stoppages as both sides heckled each other to the ground on countless occasions.
The Oseikrom boys got off to a blistering start when talisman Abdul Fatawu combined beautifully with strike partner Naby Keita to give Kotoko an early lead in the fifth minute.
The goal unsettled the homesters who struggled to find their rhythm in the early exchanges.
However, determined to get back into the tie, the Phobians took control of the game – pushing men forward but found the defence line of the visitors marshalled by Abdul Ganiu and Abdul Wahab tough nuts to crack.
Benjamin Effutu and Mohammed Alhassan got into shooting range late in the first half but both directed their kicks wide to the relief of the Kotoko contingent.
In the second half, Hearts coach Kim Grant – bent on an early equaliser, introduced strongman Kofi Kodzi to ginger his side’s attack.
Eager to cement their lead, Kotoko made a few incursions upfront with a trademark Fatawu free-kick nearly hitting the back of the Phobian net.
Hearts organised quickly, giving Kotoko a great scare when in the 65th minute livewire Joseph Esso managed to weave his way around the Kotoko defence only to cross wide.
Substitute Kodzi cracked a shot wide after getting into shooting range in the 86th minute to the chagrin of the Phobian faithful.
Kotoko will now play Karela United in the finals of the Tier 1 competition after the Westerners gained a shock 1-0 victory over Ashantigold in Obuasi.
The winner will represent the country in this year’s CAF Champions League.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO