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08.04.2006 Football News

Hearts, Kotoko Open Rivalry

By Graphic
Hearts, Kotoko Open Rivalry

The ageless soccer rivarly between local giants, Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko, will assume yet another dimension on Sunday when the two teams clash in what has been described as the “battle of El-Wak.”

This crucial Onetouch Top 4 encounter will see the mini military stadium bursting at its seams as it comes at a time the two clubs are still basking in the glory of their progress in the prestigious CAF Champions League.

Both teams edged a step closer to the lucrative group phase last weekend through what they term an 'Eclipse or Miracle of Len Clay'.

Come Sunday, both Hearts and Kotoko will again need the 'supernatural' to outdo each other as current form might not be enough to decide the tie as usual.

Coaches E.K. Afranie and Francis Oti-Akenten of Kotoko and Hearts respectively, in spite of their “father and son” relationship, know too well that the game will be tight and are, therefore, approaching it with cautious optimism.

Although both teams have the men with the heart for such big occasions, indications are that Kotoko will descend on the capital with a surprise up their sleeves in a bid to draw level on points with their rivals.

Ironically, the league champions are bottom of the table with a single point, putting them three points adrift of Hearts who are perching comfortably at the top.

Tradition favours the Porcupine Warriors who usually do better in Accra against Hearts. But whether the 'landlords' will allow the 'landguards' to eclipse them is a difficult puzzle whose solution can only wait till Sunday.

Obviously, Hearts will also seek to take territorial advantage this time, not only to entrench themselves at the top but also brighten their chances of winning a record second Top 4 title.

If they are able to win on Sunday, the Phobians could have the luxury of playing the May 14 decider against their opponents without much pressure.

Players to watch out for in this cracker are Kotoko's enigmatic Charles Taylor and midfield workaholic, Yusif Chibsah, Bernard Don Bortey and newly-recruited Eric Gawu of Hearts.

It goes without saying that Hearts fans, especially, will expect a lot from Gawu who is yet to feature for the Phobians in the Africa series.

Considering the anticipated massive turnout, the organisers will have some security concerns to grapple with as a result of a possible congestion.

Third-placed King Faisal face a tall order playing a home match in enemy territory as they encounter Berekum Arsenal at the Coronation Park, also on Sunday.

With two points from two matches, King Faisal will have a chance of improving their lot by registering their first victory in the competition.

And after failing to bang in the necessary goals against AS Bamako to advance in the Confederation Cup, Coach Abdul Karim Zito's boys are expected to break the goal drought against Arsenal.

But in Arsenal, King Faisal will find stubborn opponents to contend with as the Berekum lads have gained in confidence after progressing in the Confederation Cup at the expense of Diables Noir of Congo last Sunday.

What makes the game even more difficult for the Kumasi-based club is that Arsenal believe it is their turn to follow tradition by winning this year's competition.