From William Ezah, GNA Special Correspondent from Luanda Angola
Luanda, April 26, GNA - Accra Hearts of Oak last Sunday advanced to the next stage of the Confederation of African Football CAF Champions league when they held Athletic Sport of Avacao to a 1-1 draw in the second leg of the competion at the Citadel Stadium in Angola.
Hearts gained the qualification through 5-2 aggregate after beating the Angolans 4-1 in the first leg at the Accra Sports Stadium two weeks ago.
The Ghanaian side did not secured the qualification on a silver platter as they had to go through a lot of difficulties both on the field and off the field. They were subjected to series of harassment on arrival by the Angolans in order to gain a psychological advantage.
Aside this, Accra Hearts as usual played under the supervision of hostile Cameroonian referee Abimni Andrew who awarded most 50-50 tackles to the home Team.
The referee dished out as many as five yellow cards to Louis Agyeman, Lawrence Adjei, Osei Kuffour and Francis Bossman before the close of the game and ruled most of their moves off side while turning a blind eye to those of the Angolans.
In spite of these and incessant pressure from the Angolans, the Hearts defence stood still and battled their opponents boot for boot through out the entire minutes of regulation time .
The Angolans subjected Accra Hearts of oak to an intensive pressure right from the blast of the whistle. They created a lot of chances while Hearts hardly made any attempt at goal making the Hearts bench sitting on thorns in the early part of the game.
The only opportunities, which came their way, fell to Bortey and Kuffour but were not clear cut enough to be converted. The home team had dividends from their pressure on Hearts in the 14th minute when their danger man Asha Yamba moved past Amankwah Mireku and delivered a deep cross for Cabungula Arsenio Love to head home for the first goal.
They kept the Hearts defence boiling through out the first half but on most occasion Dan Quaye, Kwabena Boafo and Mireku had to make useful clearances to save the situation.
As if possessed, the Angolans did not relent in their search for another goal forcing Mireku and Boafo to make goal bound clearances in the 24th minute and 32 minute, while keeper Adjei made spectacular save in the 43rd minute to keep the score line the same for the close of the half.
Hearts coach Ernst Middendorp sensing danger introduced defender Dan Coleman on the resumption of the game for Don Bortey to strengthen his defence in which Dan Quaye shifted to the right back whilst Eric Nyarko took up a midfield role.
This paid off as they managed to keep the pressure down but the Avaiacao in their effort to score continue making attempts at goal which proved unfruitful.
However the change of strategy by the coach nearly resulted in a goal as the Osei Kuffour/Agyeman combination in the 53rd minute missed target narrowly from the foot of the latter.
Hearts remained under fire from the home team till the 62 minute when Nyarko picked a ball a laid it on the path of Agyeman who used his strength to go past the Aviacao defender before shooting past keeper Lukata Papi for the equaliser and keep the stadium silent. Aviacao responded swiftly and continued with their raids on the Hearts defence, which played above themselves to keep their opponents at bay.
In a bid to solidify his defence the Hearts coach brought on another defender Micheal Donkor for Bossman and this sealed the doom of the Angolans as they found it difficult to break through.
Agyeman who had it tough in the first half but found his rhythm in the second half became a constant threat to the Angolans and created a chance for his colleague Alfred Nii Larbi who came on for Agyei but he missed a chance in the 84th minute narrowly after going round a defender.
Hearts continue with a tactical defensive play but made occasional breaks in search of goal, catching their opponents on the break but the front men seemed to have been satisfied with the score line and blew the chances away.
As the game got to the 90 minute mark the referee surprisingly added five more minutes to the game but this did not in any way change the course of the game. The phobians were hailed by the home fans for their bravery while Aviacao had glasses of their bus damaged by angry fans for their failure to qualify.
In an interview with Coach Middendorp, he confirmed that his side came to Angola to play a tactical defensive game but also to search for goals and this worked to perfection.
He, however, expressed surprised at the performance of his boys in the first half but added that they played well in the second half.
The coach said Hearts would plunged into serious training on their return to Accra for their next match scheduled for May 14 in Accra, with the return leg on May 31.
Line Up Sammy Adjei, Amankwah Mireku, Eric Nyarko, Dna Quaye, Kwabena Boafo, Adjah Tetteh, Lawrence Adjei/Nii Larbi, Francis Bossman/Micheal Donkor, Louis Agyeman, Emmanuel Osei Kuffour, Don Bortey/Dan Coleman