Hearts, Kotoko battle for supremacy…in NC Tier 1 semi final clash

As the cloud of uncertainty that threatened the Normalisation Committee (NC) Tier 1 semi final clash between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko subsides, the stage would be set for an uncompromising encounter between the two sides at the Accra Sports Stadium tomorrow.

The build up to the match has been tumultuous; as the Porcupine Warriors stirred controversy, contesting arrangement and guidelines put in place by the NC purposely for the tournament.

Kotoko demanded the match was honoured on a neutral venue but the NC turned a deaf ear to that request.

They also raised concerns over disbursement of proceeds, dismissing the NC’s arrangement of the home team raking 40 per cent of it while the visiting team pockets 30 per cent.

But, again, the NC closed its eye on that request but made a u-turn and allowed Kotoko to have their wish.

That appeared to have paved the way for the game until the NC dropped another bombshell; demanding that Kotoko write officially to indicate that, indeed, the earlier boycott decision had been rescinded.

It was after this that the Porcupine Warriors declared their readiness to face Hearts anywhere and even for free, a position that explained their strong desire to snatch the sole ticket for the CAF Champions League competition.

That will surely be a difficult feat for the Asanteman Warriors to achieve, considering the plight of the Phobians who got ousted from the Tier 2 competition that also offers a ticket to the CAF second tier competition, the Confederation Cup.

Just like Kotoko, Hearts are ambitious of storming Africa in the next season and the competition offers the only route to it.

That puts them in a very difficult situation, knowing that they cannot afford a slip at this stage of the competition because it could effectively end their campaign and ruin the African dream.

The two have had the going extremely tough in the competition despite coming this far. 

Hearts has been at the very best in matches in Accra and are expected to be explosive again with Kotoko at the receiving end.

However, history also favours Kotoko in Accra, which in a way is considered one of their preferred destinations just as Hearts feel even more comfortable in Kumasi.

Both sides seem motivated ahead of the clash, with the return to their fold of Mohammed Alhassan of Hearts and Abdul Safiu of Kotoko, who have all joined from the Black Stars camp.

Kim Grant has also managed to turn the fortunes of the Phobians around in recent times; churning out some impressive displays with Abdul Manaf Omar, Joseph Esso, Michelle Sarpong, Kojo Obeng Jnr and Mohammed Fatawu expected to lead the charge.

But Kotoko equally boast of a very good squad comprising their danger man, Sogne Yacouba, Naby Keita, Emmanuel Gyamfi, Amos Cobblah and others that will catch Coach C.K Akonnor’s attention.

Hearts would have been clear favourites to emerge victorious in this mammoth encounter, but the manner in which they have struggled to convert chances gives the Porcupine Warriors a decent chance to upset the Phobians.

BY ANDREW NORTEY

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