Accra, May 16, GNA - The chance of Accra Hearts of Oak reaching the money zone of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) champions' league stage took a dip on Sunday when they managed to secure only a slim lone goal victory over Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia at the Accra Sports Stadium.
The match, which was the final eliminator before the lucrative money zone, left thousands of the home fans who turned up with the anticipation of a respectable score line disappointed as the visiting team gave a good account of themselves throughout the game. The encounter started on a fast and furious note with the Phobians cheered and urged on by their vociferous supporters moving in top gear and it did not take much time for Louis Agyeman to serve notice of what they have in stock when he made space in the box but with the yawning net at his mercy he shot wide off target.
Roared on by the packed to capacity stadium, Hearts continued to pose all the necessary questions and managed in the 22nd minute to beautifully carve open the otherwise tight defence of the Tunisians with some quick interchange passes for Agyeman who was unmarked to drill in a low drive that was well saved by Ostin Ijid in post for Etoile with a fully stretched effort.
The Nigerian goalkeeper of Etoile indeed proved to be the stumbling block between Hearts and any attempt at goal when in the 25th minute he was again on hand to save another goal bound drive from Francis Bossman. The Tunisians found the going tough and resorted to time wasting tactics resulting in Referee Samba Abdoul Diouf from Senegal flashing the yellow card on Madji Troare and Raoof Benzime in the 31st and 33rd minutes respectively.
Etoile who were not overawed by the relentless attacks of the Phobians crowded the midfield, giving the Hearts engine room of Adjah Tetteh and Francis Bossman little room to operate.
But with just two minute to the recess, Hearts got the all-important break that they needed most when Bossman's pile driver of a shot from just outside the penalty box saw Ijid struggling to make a first time save which slipped from his hands into the post to register the only goal of the match.
Hearts could not however capitalise on the moral boosting goal as they allowed Etoile to come more into the game in the second half and nearly had the equaliser in the 63rd minute but for Lawrence Adjei who managed to clear a goal bound header off the line from a corner kick. Hearts Sammy Adjei was on hand to save the blushes of his team in the 63rd minute when he courageously threw his body unto the path of unmarked Zuobi Baya to prevent him finding the equaliser.
In the 78th minute, Hearts Bernard Don Bortey who had come on in the first half for Alfred Nii Larbi had a wonderful opportunity to double the lead for his side after Agyeman had set him up courtesy a quick counter attack but with only the goalkeeper to beat the striker shot wide to the chagrin of the fans.
Hearts brought on Ablade Morgan and Eric Nyarko for Agyeman and Dan Quaye respectively in the 80th to beef up their attack and the substitution nearly yielded the needed benefit when Morgan found his effort just flash past the face of the post in the 87th minute.
The referee's whistle for the end of proceedings saw a gloomy picture on the faces of the fans as they were glued to their seats for a period unable to cope with the result and what laid in stock for the team in the second leg in Tunis in two weeks time.
Line Up: (Hearts) - Sammy Adjei, Amankwah Mireku, Dan Quaye/Eric Nyarko (80), Acquah Harrison, Kwabena Boafo, Francis Bossman, Adjah Tetteh, Lawrence Adjei, Alfred Nii Larbi/Bernard Don Bortey (30) Louis Agyeman/Ablade Morgan (80), Emmanuel Osei Kuffour Etoile du Sahel - Ostin Ijid, Karim Haggi/Sabein Trenoh (67), Saifi Ghezah, Raoof Benzime, Madji Troare/Emeka (50), Ahmed Zaibian, Sime Ktale/Merladi Nsira (80), Nour Amorkachi, Ouhiacor.