Hearts beat Kotoko by a lone goal
Accra Hearts of Oak inflicted a lone goal defeat on archrivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko courtesy Samuel Affum in the Ninth Week Premier League match played at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium, Accra on Sunday, December 13.
Even though the match was without the usual pre-match rivalry and bragging, the two sides were bent on adding up to their history, hence they approached the game with the needed seriousness.
It was the Phobians who made a break-through in the Kotoko defence as early the third minute, when petit midfielder Obed Ansah raced through the Kotoko defence but with only keeper Soulama Abdoulaye to beat, his delivery was well dealt with by the goalie, with the resultant corner kick wasted.
Kabiru Moro responded to the call for Kotoko when he was presented with a goal scoring opportunity but saw his kick saved by keeper Philemon McCarthy three minutes on, after which the two sides adhered strictly to their game plan.
Whilst Kotoko relied on a compact system of play, with fast inter-positional changes, Hearts were comfortable with long balls and frequent break offs into their opponent's defence.
It was during one of such raids that saw Mahatma Otoo running away from defender Ofosu Appiah on the flanks to deliver a swift cross which felt deep into the Kotoko defence for an unmarked Samuel Affum to make an easy connection into the yawning net for the opener and the eventual winning goal in the 20th minute.
Hearts held on to their thin lead despite Kotoko's domination of the game till the close of the first half.
The second half was not all that different from the first 45 minutes of the game, even though both sides made changes to their set pieces on the pitch, with Kotoko continuing with their dominance whilst Hearts also maintained their game plan to pushing the ball out of danger.
Despite Kotoko's dominance and inter-positional play with former Ghanaian international Baffour Gyan leading their attack, with support from Moro and Francis Coffie, Kotoko were unable to break the back of the Hearts defence which was ably manned in the centre by Karim Alhassan and Osei Bonsu.
On occasions where they managed a breakthrough, the Kotoko attackers were either denied a goal either by the agility of McCarthy or by poor shooting when it mattered most.
With the game plan of the Phobian working to perfection, they initiated another move similar to the one that fetched them the first goal, with Ansah, Otoo and Affum again being the main architects but Thuaha Khamix's shot missed target narrowly in the 61st minute.
Kotoko intensified their search for the much needed equaliser with the introduction of Michael Ofosu Appiah, Frank Boateng and Louis Agyeman but their presence did not in any way changed the fortunes of the 'Porcupine Warriors'.
Not even the reduction of the numerical strength of Hearts after the exit of skipper Alhassan for a second bookable offence 12 minutes before the close of proceedings could provide the Reds with the antidote to break the stable Hearts defence for the equaliser.
Hearts on the other hand decided to play the delay tactics to their game plan with intermittent injuries by some of their players in a bid to buy off time.
This worked in their favour as it frustrated the efforts of Kotoko in at least fetching an equaliser before the close of the game the final whistle.
With two minutes of additional time by referee Samuel K. Gyasi, the Phobians ensured a 'jealous protection' of their lone goal to earn the three maximum points at stake, after Moro's header was parried off the posts by McCarthy in injury time but the game did not end without protest the Kotoko players led by keeper Abdoulaye and confronting between some Hearts fans and the security detail.