There were mixed-feeling at the Accra Sports Stadium as Hearts of Oak narrowly defeated Moroccan giants Wydad Athletic Club (WAC) 1-0 in the first leg second round preliminary stage of the CAF Champions League yesterday.
Youngster Isaac Mensah’s 41st minute goal was enough to seal a second victory for the Phobians against the Moroccan giants, having defeated WAC same margin in 1986.
However, the Phobians must admit that they have a huge task in the return fixture before they get into the Money Zone.
The Moroccans are yet to taste defeat in their last five games with the Hearts’ armada eager to ride on their home advantage to secure a crucial victory ahead of a tricky return leg in Casablanca, a week later.
A well-structured and organised Wydad dominated play in the early stages of the game, forcing the Phobians to chase shadows.
Hearts’ goalie Richard Attah’s had to make double saves in a space of five minutes to deny WAC’s Ayoub El Almoud and Zouheir El Moutaraji from shooting ahead.
Later on, Hearts gathered momentum and were a delight to watch as their first attempt was blasted off by Emmanuel Nettey.
Goalie Richard Attah was called to duty again with a delightful save to deny Zouheir El Moutaraji.
An early knock forced Hearts to bring on William Denkyi for Congolese international Raddy Ovouka in the 21st minute.
Hearts were denied a clear penalty in the 36th minute when WAC goalie Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti brought down Daniel Barnieh Afriyie in the area, before another late tackle on Kofi Kordzi – but a call for a penalty was ignored by Angolan Referee Rodrigues de Carvalho, whilst a rebound from Salifu Ibrahim was parried away by Ahmed Reda.
Not rattled by the controversial decisions of the centre-man, Hearts kept pressing and deservedly broke the deadlock in the 41st minute.
Salifu Ibrahim sent in a decent cross from the left side of attack which forward Isaac Mensah slotted home past goalie Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti, after outmuscling his marker.
In the dying embers of the first half, Saimon Happygod Msuva fed on a defensive blunder to hit one inside the penalty but ever-present Attah proved his worth with a swift save to end the first half.
After recess, the Moroccans sat deep in their half as Hearts kept surging forward for a second goal.
Kordzi set the stadium ablaze with a thunderbolt outside the box which goalie Ahmed Reda did well to tip off the cross bar.
In the 65th minute, Ibrahim should have doubled Hearts’ advantage after he was set up by Kordzi whose spade work on the left found him with the goal at his mercy.
Hearts made double substitution as Frderick Ansah Botchway and Isaac Mensah came on for Enoch Asubonteng and Isaac Mensah respectively. Agyenim Boateng and Victor Aidooo were also introduced for Ibrahim and Kordzi before Wydad also fetched on Mounsef Chrachem for injured Zouheir El Moutaraji.
But the changes never affected the Moroccans who remained resolute and defended gallantly, despite Hearts’ persistent pressure.
BY LINUS SIAW NARTEY