Spiritless Hearts beat AS Police

DSC_0338ACCRA Hearts of Oak staggered off their continental campaign on a lethargic fashion after managing a lame 1-0 win over Benin club AS Police at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Upshot of yesterday’s CAF Confederation Cup first leg preliminary tie makes the return encounter a Herculean assignment for the spiritless Hearts – and the Phobians could be making a shameful first round exit unless something dramatic happens to alter that white-bread performance.

“This is certainly not the Hearts we know. Something must be wrong somewhere,” was the post-match reaction of one of the club’s few faithful who walked away in despondency yesterday, despite the win.

On a torrid afternoon that saw Hearts lacking a creative lynchpin in midfield as well as missing the man with the Tomahawk-cutting edge upfront, it was always going to be complicated for a side who have struggled desperately for form – even in domestic football where they lie on the 12th position in the First Capital Plus premier league.

AS Police may not be a household name in the African game but mustered some courage to run at their more illustrious opponents on realizing that the Phobians were no longer the dreaded side they used to be when they lifted the CAF Confederation Cup in 2004 – on the first year of introduction.

In one of such runs, Kassa Hermann tested goalkeeper Abdoulaye Soulama with a powerful grounder close to the half-hour mark after breaking behind the home team’s backline. It was a timely warning that shook Hearts from their forty winks until the end of the boringly barren half.

Unlike the first half when they played as though there was nothing as stake, Hearts began the second stanza on fire and barely a minute into the half had struck the much-awaited initiative through a corner-kick brilliantly taken by Joseph Owusu Bempah from the right which met the devastating head of Selasi Adjei.

The response from the sparse crowd was deafening. It was clear they wanted more goals to make the return academic. The opportunities did pour out – but Hearts managed to squander them all especially in the 61st minute when substitute Kwame Kizito had only the Police goalkeeper and captain Judicail Agbokou at his mercy – but shot lamely straight into him.

Adjei could have made it 2-0 but once again fired into the grateful hands of Agbokou after sneaking behind the unyielding Police back-four of Dossa Honore, Bawa Fadil, Fitila Lawani and Dossou Deudonne, which was now in tatters.

With the goals appearing moribund, the fans knew they were sitting on a powder-keg. Tension was noticeably written on their faces. Coach Herbert Addo was the more distressed as he stood relentlessly and shouted instructions at his charges including lead striker Gilbert Fianmenyo who was well policed throughout the afternoon.

Herbert has been under torrid pressure following the club’s pallid form in the First Capital Plus League and knows anything apart from a gorgeous win could spark calls for his head.

With time ebbing away, the Hearts armada threw caution to the wind and attacked in bursts in a bid to snatch the security goal but it was a day late and dollar short – and Hearts would have a big task on hand in Porto Novo – two weeks’ later.

That the more physically endowed Policemen hugged and congratulated each other after the game, should tell Hearts the enormity of the battle that awaits them.

By John Vigah

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