Sports

Kotoko late penalty downs Hearts

Accra Hearts of Oak produced one of their best performances in recent times but succumbed to Asante Kotoko’s firepower in a frenetic Ghana Premier League encounter that ended 2-1 in favour of the Porcupine Warriors.

Naby Keita decided Kotoko’s fate in the dying embers of the game after brilliantly converting a late penalty after a hard-pressed Hearts defender had handled the ball in the goal area.

Both sides were pegged at 1-1 before the penalty as Justice Blay headed Kotoko into the lead from a free-kick in the first half and Hearts grabbing the equaliser with a header in the 63rd minute.

With an electrifying atmosphere created by the packed-to-capacity Accra Sports Stadium, the stakes appeared very high for the two sides with Hearts’ followers the more confident.

Hearts kicked off in an amazing fashion, creating very decent chances which Joseph Esso and Kofi Kordzie squandered. It was hellish for Kotoko who struggled to cope with Coach Maxwell Konadu’s instruction to play from the back.

On all the occasions they tried, passes from Habib Mohammed were all intercepted as Hearts searched for an early opener.

But the Porcupine Warriors found the break-through in the sixth minute when they launched the first meaningful attack which resulted in a corner but was wasted.

The game became a ding dong affair from that stage with Hearts enjoying greater percentage of possession although Kotoko threatened on a few times.

Against the run of play, Kotoko found the net in the 11th minute when Blay outjumped his marker to head home a freekick awarded Kotoko in the Hearts territory.

It was a stunner that took the Phobians a while to recover.

Within that spell, Kotoko ran the show and went close to scoring again but missed the chances they created with Salifu Mudasiru’s miss in the 13th minute the narrowest. Kotoko had a claim for penalty in the 40th ignored when Emmanuel Gyamfi was pushed down in the Hearts’ goal area.

The Porcupines resumed the second half as the more aggressive side, winning a corner kick under two minutes. The Hearts’ hunger and thirst switched the pendulum in their favour and launched several raids into the Kotoko area.

At this point, Kotoko survived on the brilliance of defender Wahab Adams who single-handedly thwarted the efforts of the Phobians and in one of those displays received a yellow card for fouling a Hearts player.

Another attack by the Phobians saw Wahab making a clearance to corner in the 63rd minute.

The resultant kick was headed home by Esso, attracting a wild jubilation from the Hearts faithful and silencing their Kotoko counterparts, but for a while.

Then emerged the 16-year old wonder boy of Kotoko, Matthew Cudjoe, who substituted Augustine Okrah, to change the fortunes of the Reds.

After winning a series of fouls, he made a daring move in the 78th minute when he broke through the Hearts defence, leaving three markers in his trail to set up Naby Keita whose header was saved well by the Hearts goalie, Richard Atta.

Kotoko kept probing and found a way through the Hearts backline, but a goal-bound strike hit the hand of a Hearts defender for a penalty which Keita struck with aplomb.

Hearts accepted the challenge and quickly stormed the Kotoko territory and created a melee with a Kotoko defender blocking a shot which attracted shouts for penalty by the home team, but referee Eshun who was very economical with his cards and came out with some strange decisions, ignored the call.

Hearts threw everything into the game for the last four added-on-time but Kotoko remained resolute and defended well to silent their arch rivals.

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