Hearts vs Union Douala of Cameroun
Free scoring champion club, Hearts of Oak, met their match at the Accra stadium yesterday. In Union Douala of Cameroun, Hearts found an all-round robust tackling team and the best the Ghana champion could offer their teeming, flag bearing fans was a narrow 1-0 victory in the first leg of the African Cup’ of champion clubs final.
Thanks to an 87th minute goal by right-winger Nketia Yawson, who headed home a brilliant in-swinger from skipper Robert Hammond, Hearts can approach the final with some confidence.
There was everything classic about this very important goal. Hammond who had moved to the left flank, pounced on a loose ball. He appeared to be hanging too long on the ball much to the displeasure of the impatient crowd, but the utility forward player knew what he was about.
He took a quick survey and his curling cross went straight to the waiting head of Yawson who made no mistake about it.
The header was powerful and perfect and skipper-cum goalkeeper Bell, who inspired his team with several hair-raising saves, was this time completely helpless.
The goalie broke down in tears and was making eyes at left-full back Tina who had been detailed to police Yawson. In fact, Tina had discharged his duty faithfully and had almost succeeded in playing out Yawson when that split moment came and Yawson could not be denied his record of a goal a match in the continental series.
This was a cup final by all standard fast, fluent and robust, but the visitors, took too much advantage of their physique and turned out to be bullies. This gave Sudanese referee Suliman the chance to use the yellow card on five Douala players and eventually dismissed substitute inside-left Bassoua towards the end of the game.
The strategy adopted by Douala was close marking and this worked well. Hearts could hardly play their usual, sweet flowing game. Instead, they resorted to high tosses but this could hardly yield any good dividends because the visitors are taller. On top of this the chances were wasted.
Twice in the first half Asabir came close but missed and it was Douala who nearly went ahead when center-forward Eroule sneaked away from an off-side trap but Suppey made a very nice anticipation and robbed the galloping forward player of the ball.
Earlier, Justice Moore was hurt in a tussle with team mate Thompson. He was on the touchline for five minutes and later on Tommy was also injured and Micah took over.
Micah appeared to have the strength to match the robust tactics of the visitors and he really inspired Hearts to launch series of raids, especially in the second half.
Douala, playing to a set pattern, were content to be on the defensive throughout as Hearts made countless attempts to make use of their home ground advantage.
Speedsters’ Awuah replayed Douglas Tagoe in the 70th minute and immediately announced his presence with a bullet shot from an Asabir cross.
As the minute ticked by, it became increasingly evident that Hearts had been neutralized, but the ‘Phobians’, who have won all their home matches in the competition, could not falter at this crucial stage, more especially in the presence of the Head of State Dr Liman.
Urged on by the demanding cheers of the packed stadium, Hearts still pressed and the 87th minute goal was the result of sustained pressure.
With this victory, narrowly though it is, Hearts can approach the final of finals in Yaounde with some measure of confidence.
Line-up (Hearts): Sam Suppey—Ofei Ansah—Hesse Odamtten—Eben Thompson/Anthony Micah—Justice Moore—Adolf Armah—Nketia Yawson—Robert Hammond—Anas Seidu—Kingston Asabir—Douglas Tagoe/Simons Awuah.
*************************************** Douala: Bell—Ename—Tina—Njeya—Doumbe—Mayebi—Beb—Boboemal/Epie—Eroule--Kargal/Bassoua—Yenma.