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30.03.2006 Football News

Bleak outlook for Ghana's Hearts of Oak

By Fifa.com
Bleak outlook for Ghana's Hearts of Oak

Ghana's Hearts of Oak face yet another exit in the early rounds of the CAF African Champions League, maintaining an undistinguished record in the years since winning Africa's top club prize in 2000.

The Accra club must overcome a four-goal deficit if they are to avoid another early exit, this time at the hands of the Ethiopian club St George, who surprised Hearts with the ferocity of their attack in the first leg of their second round tie in Addis Ababa a fortnight ago.

The 4-0 win for St George followed their surprise elimination of Egypt's ENPPI in the first round of this year's Champions League competition.

Since winning the Champions League in 2000, Hearts have played each year but failed to reach the lucrative last eight of the tournament, where the teams enter a league phase and share in the income from marketing and television rights.

Hearts' new coach, Francis Oti Akenteng blamed the high altitude in Addis Ababa for his side's surprise defeat but said that Hearts still had a chance to fight back in the return leg in Obuasi on Saturday.

To add insult to injury, Hearts were fined $5,000 by the Confederation of African Football this week after five of their players were cautioned in the first leg, part of a new bid to clamp down on violent play in African club competition.

Hearts share the ground with Asante Kotoko, who are much better placed for progress into the next round of the Champions League.

Kotoko host Ferroviario Maputo of Mozambique on Sunday after forcing a goalless draw away in the first leg of their second round match-up despite playing with 10 men for over an hour.

FORCED SWITCH

Ghanaian clubs have been forced to switch their matches to the Len Clay stadium in the gold-mining town of Obuasi because of renovations to their stadiums in Accra and Kumasi ahead of Ghana hosting of the 2008 African Nations Cup finals.

Two other former African champions will be attempting to overturn first-leg defeats.

JS Kabylie of Algeria are a goal down against ZANACO of Zambia going into Friday's second leg in Algiers, while Morocco's Royal Armed Forces must come back from a 2-1 deficit if they are to overcome the tricky APR FRC of Rwanda.

Champions Al Ahli play in Cairo on Friday against Tusker FC of Kenya in what should be a routine assignment. The Egyptian side won 2-0 in the first leg in Nairobi earlier in March.

In total there are 16 games in the Champions League across the African continent this weekend and a further 15 in the CAF African Confederation Cup, which is also at the second-round, second-leg stage.

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