Two missed penalties and a flurry of missed opportunities settled a pulsating ‘Super 2’ clash goalless as Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak renewed their traditional rivalry in an outstanding matchday 14 Ghana Premier League (GPL) clash at the Accra Sports Stadium, yesterday.
Kotoko forward Kwame Opoku’s penalty miss under 60 seconds of play denied him the chance to increase his goal tally to seven.
On the other hand, Hearts substitute striker Isaac Mensah was also denied by Kotoko goalie Razak Abalora from the spot in the 72ndminute.
It would have been the third timeMensah would have emerged the hero for the ‘Phobians’ after scoring the winner in his side’s past two games against Dwarfs and Dansoman Liberty Professionals.
Missing the usual packed crowd accustomed to this traditional clash due to coronavirus restrictions, the first ten minutes never showed the two teams missed their vociferous crowds as they played with intensity and showed a knack for an early goal.
The deal broke first for Kotoko when less than a minute into the start, Kwame Opoku, who was racing to collect Fabio Gama’s teasing pass into the Hearts box was adjudged to have been fouled by Hearts guard Mohammed Alhassan.
Opoku who elected himself for the kick shot into the direction of Hearts goalie Richard Attah to deny his side a promising start.
Hearts quickly reorganized and turned the pressure on the ‘Porcupines’ and by the 10th minute , they came close to scoring nut were let down by their front men.
On an afternoon where Hearts enjoyed the greater share of the possession, Kwadwo Obeng Jnr and Patrick Razak emerged the worst culprits as they wasted glorious opportunities that could have sealed the game for Hearts in the first half.
In one instance in the sixth minute, Razak, after latching onto a delightful pass from captain Abdul Fatawu watched on awe as his low feeble strike beat Abalora in post for Kotoko but hit the post to the relief of the the Asanteman Warriors.
Obeng Jnr who also pounced on a Kotoko defender Yusif Mubarik’s blunder inside his box was unable to go round Abalora who stretched his foot to douse the danger.
Sensing the unrelenting attacks from Hearts, Kotoko retreated to a defensive posture, slowing down the game with their midfield trio of Fabio Gama, Latif Anabila,and Emmanuel Sarkodie while Emmanuel Gyamfi was unable to find a creative way to feed Opoku and Naby Keita.
Just after recess, Hearts continued their unrelenting quest for an opener but again, Razak with his trademark lightening pace burst into the Kotoko goal area and blasted wide.
Kotoko found their creative forces with Gama, Opoku and Sarkodie combining to set up Naby Keita who released a power-laden shot but an alert Attah cooled it.
To reinforce the energy of their teams, Kotoko introduced Kwame Frimpong, Mudasiru Salifu whilst Hearts brought on Isaac Mensah and Michelle Sarpong.
But substitute Isaac Mensah whose introduction seemed to reinvigorate the Hearts frontline was presented with an opportunity to grab the winner for the Phobians after Abalora was adjudged to have fouled a Hearts attacker.
Abalora atoned for that error when he denied Mensah from the spot.
The final 10 minutes was as eventful as the opening 10 minutes.
Opoku watched agonizingly as his curly-shot bounced off Attah crossbar in one of the few decent chances that fell to Kotoko.
A similar surge by Kotoko resulted in tense moments in the Hearts area but the final delivery from Anabila was poorly done.
In the dying minutes, Mensah was presented with a chance to atone for his penalty miss, but he failed to capitalize on Abalora’s blunder.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO