A bunch of spineless Hearts of Oak players crashed out of the CAF Confederation Cup competition yesterday after failing to account for ASR Bamako in their second leg preliminary tie at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Even though the Ghanaians attempted to carve out something out of a near-hopeless situation from a Caleb Amankwah late strike, that lame effort was a day late – and a dollar short, as it was two goals shy of redeeming the 3-0 Bamako deficit suffered at the Stade Modibo, a week earlier.
Scenes after the near-thrilling game were tumultuously engaging. Whilst players of Hearts crashed onto the turf inconsolable, distraught and discomfited, the well-drilled visitors romped into celebration of a magnificent accomplishment.
The continental fiasco is increasingly becoming a familiar sight for the home team now.
The Phobians had hoped to tap from an invigorating past, laden with golden comebacks.
One of such miraculous moments was when Hearts blew apart St George of Ethiopia 4-0 in the 2006 CAF Champions League game – having lost by the same margin away. Unable to handle the artillery of smash-and-grab onslaughts, the Ethiopians reluctantly threw in the towel and walked off the pitch before the end of first half.
Again on November 6, 1977 – five days before their 66th birthday, Hearts performed one of their foremost miracles when they resurrected from a 5-2 white-washing by Zambia’s Mighty Mufulira Wanderers to win 3-0 in the return fixture of the then Africa Club Champions Cup – held at the El Wak Sports Stadium. It was a certain Mohammed Polo who was introduced in the second half to turn the tide around – his feet spurning a series of devastatingly mesmerising runs – to snuff out the Zambian firepower.
That was the spirit and doughty-character a decent number of the Hearts contingent that swarmed the Accra stadium yesterday, were hoping to see. Zilch!
Yesterday, there was no Mohammed Polo’s magic as seen in the ‘Miracle of El-Wak feat; neither was there a hint of Bernard Don Bortey’s wondrous goal-scoring acumen that ruthlessly rammed St. George to the sword in 2006.
What was evidenced was a somewhat determined bunch of hungry Hearts’ players howling, yowling, roaring and barking – but lacking the teeth to bite. Dream midfielder Gladson Awako was, perhaps, the brightest light. His intricate passing game zigzagged across the field like a bolt of freshly lightning. But just!
Hearts appeared to have started the afternoon on a whirlwind fashion, earning four corner-kicks in the first quarter. However, by the half-hour mark, it was evident they were still struggling to sink their teeth into the game – as the fans sat on pins and needles in hope of a breakthrough.
The Malians’ initial strategy was to soak up the pressure and catch their hosts on the break; but after assessing their strength, they knew Hearts did not possess anything special to threaten them.
Aside their profligacy, the Phobians were tactically bankrupt on the afternoon as they flung high balls to the advantage of the relatively taller Malians skippered by Mohammed Camara. It was a style they never abandoned until Togolese Referee Yelebodom Gado Mawabwe Bodjona, signaled for the end of hostilities.
It may have been the reason the home fans chanted the name of the immediate past coach of the club – Samuel Boadu (he was at the stadium yesterday) who was shown the door ahead of the game. Many of the fans believed it was a calamitous decision by management to let go their League and FA Cup winning coach, few days to an important continental tie.
The acerbity and anguish of the fans after the game saw them lay ‘ambush’ for some management members who were shielded to safety by security officials at the stadium for hours.
BY JOHN VIGAH