Hearts beat Kotoko to win GHALCA Presidential Cup …as well as maximum points, cash
Hearts of Oak put up a truly defiant performance to beat sworn rivals – Asante Kotoko 1-0 to amass the maximum betPawa Ghana Premier League (GPL) points cum the GHALCA 2023 Presidential Cup at stake at the Accra Sports Stadium.
It was not all: The home team also swaggered away with GH¢50,000 cash prize that went with the Holy Grail. The losers had no choice but to settle for GH¢30,000.
The only goal of the Week 20 high-on-energy game was scored by Konadu Yiadom three minutes before the hour mark – on an afternoon that served as the Presidential Cup due to fixture congestion.
The 23-year-old Yiadom, who joined the Phobians last August, soared into orbit to head powerfully Linda Mtange’s spectacular free-kick past imposing goalie Danlad Ibrahim, to a deafening response from the home crowd.
Watched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo – in whose honour the game was played – as well as the ECOWAS Chairman and President of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló – who was the Special Guest of Honour yesterday, the game did not fully live up to its true billing, but generated a scattered amperage of thrills.
Bent on avenging last year’s defeat at the same venue, the Porcupine Warriors hit the ground running immediately after the get-go under the instructions of Referee Jacob Aduntera
The weak hearts may have ruled Hearts out yesterday, but in the midst of the frustration, they discovered their age-long invigorating “Never Say Die Until the Bones Are Rotten” motto.
The Phobians looked to have cut a frustrated side heading into the game, with their head coach – Slavko Matic, having had to watch the big game at home. The Serbian was on Friday hounded out at the club’s training grounds by disgruntled fans, following back-to-back defeats to Aduana Stars and Great Olympics – all at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Subsequently, the police cautioned the Serbian trainer to stay away from the club until further notice, compelling his assistant – David Ocloo, to step into the ‘hot’ seat for his boss.
Ocloo knows all-too well that he was confronted with a taxing task of upstaging Kotoko for the ‘double-do’ glory. Yet, he took a fierce dash and knocked it off.
A dour opening quarter was later to give way to frenetic exchanges as the two juggernauts created a number of scoring chances on their own but their forwards lacked the magic to poke in the goals.
Kotoko striker Steve Mukwala nearly gave his side the early advantage after five minutes, but blew away in front of goal to the chagrin of the Kotoko faithful.
Mohammed Alhassan, playing against his former club, almost bundled into his own net but for the alertness of goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim.
Having failed to snatch a point in their last two games, Hearts appeared to be the more determined side – and created better scoring chances.
The game slumped into bad temper in the heat of the exchanges as Burkinabe coach Seidu Zerbo and Richmond Ayi were booked for an incident on the touchline.
Kotoko resumed the second stanza with lots of aggression as Steve Mukwala, George Mfegue and Richmond Lamptey pushed the hunt more compellingly, earning a corner-kick moments after, but failed to utilise it.
Not ready to surrender, Kotoko nearly found the redeemer but Mukwala’s header from Agyapong’s dead-ball exploded off the upright. It was a close shave for the Phobians – who would ride on to celebrate a momentous day – on the eve of Ghana’s 66th Independence.
The victory lifted Hearts to fifth on the table, five points behind leaders – Aduana Stars
BY JOHN VIGAH