16.07.2006 League Report

Hearts/Kotoko storm Africa

Hearts/Kotoko storm Africa
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Ghana's most glamourous clubs, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak will this weekend commence the search for continental glory in the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Champions League competition. Debutants, Kotoko will come up against JS Kabylie of Algeria in their opening game in far away Algiers and the outcome of the game will definitely decide the fate of the Club in the competition.

Though Kotoko will be making their maiden appearance in the competition, they are no new customers in continental football, having won the Africa Club Championship twice.

The same can be said of the Algerians, who also have an impressive record at the continental level and will be riding on that glory to make a good start in the championship.

Critically, the Algerians seem to be slightly ahead of Kotoko and stand a better chance of winning the battle because they will be playing at home with a partisan home crowd behind them.

The Fabulous lads again go into the battle with a squad that looks depleted, following the absence of key and regular players such as Aziz Ansah and Yusif Chibsah, who are reported to be seeking greener pastures in Europe, with Charles Taylor not qualified as his loan spell with the Club has expired.

Worse still for the Club, the World Cup revelation, Shilla Illiasu is suspended for receiving two yellow cards at the preliminary stages, whilst Godfred Yeboah is nursing an injury.

Coach Emmanuel Kwesi Afranie however seems to be undaunted about the situation as he believes the Club have equally good materials to do battle in the North African duel.

He was optimistic that the absence of the players will provide the needed challenge for the substitutes to live up to expectation and coupled with the impressive away records of Kotoko in the prelims and their determination to chalk success will enable them perform the magic for the 'Porcupine' lads.

It is based on the above reasons and sentiments that the Club cannot be ruled out of the game, because the Reds stand the chance of at least grabbing an away point.

The 2000 Champions, Accra Hearts of Oak make a return to the competition five years later after annexing it in grand style and have vowed to repeat the same performance that saw them conquer everything on sight that year.

The confidence of the Phobians seems to have been buoyed by the calibre of players recruited by the Club this season for the competition, more especially with the inclusion of Eric Gawu.

Gawu is by no doubt one of the prolific strikers on the local scene as he combines speed, skills and aggression to outwit defenders and this the Phobians are seeking to ride on to pluck the three points at stake as they come up against the Nigerian champions, Enyimba International.

Gawu's qualities will receive further boost from the likes of Reuben Senyo and Bernard Don Bortey, ably supported by Francis Bossman, Amankwah Mireku and a few others to deliver the goods.

The Nigerians will of course be no mince meat for the Phobians because they have a rich continental record having won the trophy on two consecutive occasions in 2003 and 2004.

This makes the battle an unpredictable one but with Hearts enjoying home support at the Obuasi Len Clay Stadium, they look favourites to carry the day.

Aside that, the Phobians have also recorded an impressive record at the venue when they beat St George of Ethiopia and Etoile Du Sahel of Tunisia, hence they stand a great chance of commencing their campaign in a grand finale.

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