By Anwar U. Larry from the Len Clay Sports Stadium

Accra Hearts of Oak beat Ashgold 1-0 at the Len Clay Sports Stadium on Saturday to record a first away win of the new season.

Super substitute Paul Acquah scored the lone winner, thumping home a loose ball in the Ashgold box in the 73rd minute to help Hearts record their first away win of the season.

Chances were at a premium in the first half but the Miners struck the crossbar whilst Thomas Abbey drew a spectacular save from the Ashgold goalkeeper.

The Phobians had a legitimate penalty waved away by referee Yaw Ametepe in strange circumstances. The match referee had pointed to the spot and Vincent Atingah had even carried the ball heading to the box only for a last minute consultation borne out of incessant pressure from the Ashgold players and fans for Ametepe and his assistants to rescind the decision.

But that hard-to-swallow decision did not deter the Phobians who pushed till they got their just rewarded through Acquah’s powerful strike to make it back-to-back wins in the new campaign.

Head Coach Frank Nuttall made two changes to the side that beat Bechem United in mid-week. Daniel Kodie returned to the starting XI, pushing Paul Acquah to the bench, whilst Samudeen Ibrahim replaced the stricken Malik Akowuah.

Hearts looked bright on the right side of attack with Fatawu and Nimo acting in tandem and causing trouble for the Miners.

In the 26th minute, Abbey swung in a cross from after a Hearts corner into the box but Richard Akrofi could not steer it on target.

Mohammed Ibrahim was lucky to escape a booking after lunging into Winful Cobbinah on a Hearts break. His luck was that the referee had allowed the advantage though Cosmos could not get his way through.

On the half-hour mark, Fatawu was slipped through on goal by a quick pass from Kodie but the right-back-turned-wingers chest down was a bit heavy for the hosts to clear. 

Five minutes later, Abbey was also slipped through but his low shot was pushed out by the keeper with no Hearts player in proximity to stab the rebound home.

At the other end, Ashgold rattled the crossbar after Kwoffie stood in a cross at the back post for Shafiu Mumuni. The striker’s headed effort looped over Akurugu but crushed into the crossbar much to the relief of the Hearts back-four and to the disappointment of the home fans.  

After the break, Hearts came out quite strongly and much improved. They should have taken the lead when Abbey floated in a cross into the box but Akrofi’s half-volley went straight into the body of the Ashgold keeper.

The hosts riposted at the other end with Mohammed Ibrahim weaving his way through the Hearts defense after a series of 1-2s but Akurugu had read the situation and bombed forward to curb the Ashgold incursion and nicking the ball off the foot of the ready-to-shoot midfielder.

Coach Nuttall took off Cobbinah for Acquah in the 52nd minute as Hearts changed their approach play. The Phobians needed to be expansive and more direct as the game became stretched and Acquah’s introduction gave Hearts the lift.

Acquah fell in the box when he was slipped through by Fatawu on a Hearts break and Atingah did well to block a shot from Osei Baffour when the hosts responded at the other end.

With the game fully stretched, Abbey shimmied to shoot before unleashing a shot which Ashgold’s Amouzou blocked with his arm in the box. Referee Ametepe did not hesitate to point to the spot in the 59th minute. 

Hearts penalty-taker Atingah had gone for the ball whilst the Ashgold players protested the decision. A few seconds later, their protestation was heard when Ametepe in concert with his assistant referee overturned the decision.

Ashgold were relieved. But Hearts were incensed and felt cheated.

The in-just decision seemed to favour Ashgold and buoyed by it, they nearly snatched the lead at the other end. A sweet cross from the right for Shafiu was intercepted by the agile Akurugu, who did well to tip the ball over the head of the Ashgold striker who was waiting to pounce in the 69th minute.

Bright Lukman replaced Cosmos Dauda as Hearts went in search of the winner. The former Dwarfs striker was in the thick of affairs when Fatawu drove in a cross from the right. He could not hold onto the ball after keeper Apronti pointed it out but Acquah was readying himself inside the area.

The winger blasted a powerful shot into the gaping net in the 73rd minute to put Hearts in the lead.

Acquah could have gotten his second just after the restart but his effort was deflected out after he was put through by Fatawu yet again.

The Phobians had to defend deep after taking the lead as Ashgold went on the rampage in search of the equalizer. It provided room for the counter attack but the visitors could not take advantage of two good chances on the break.

In the 90th minute, Ashgold finally exposed the Hearts back-four but Shafiu drove wide with Akurugu at his mercy.
Hearts had done it the hard way and they held on to record their first away win of the season.
HEARTS XI vs ASHGOLD: Samuel Akurugu, Anthony Nimo, Joshua Otoo (93 Kassenu Ghandy), Vincent Atingah, Richard Akrofi, Samudeen Ibrahim, Fatawu Mohammed, Daniel Kodie, Cosmos Dauda (71 Bright Lukman), Winful Cobbinah (52 Paul Acquah), Thomas Abbey (c ).
Unused substitutes: Benjamin Mensah, Robert Addo, Samuel Yeboah, Alexandre Kouami
Booked: None
GOAL: Paul Acquah (73)
ASHGOLD XI vs HEARTS: George Apronti, Roland Amouzou, Emmanuel Nti-Mensah, Tijani Joshua (c ), Samed Ibrahim, Joseph Gordon, Emmanuel Osei Baffour (68 Kofi Owusu), Ibrahim Lukman, Mohammed Ibrahim, Shafiu Mumuni (93 Zakaria Hussein), Hans Kwofie (74 Osei Abubakar)
Unused substitutes: Frimpong Sarkodie, Habib Mohammed, Eric Boabeng, Iddrisu Ibrahim
Booked: Emmanuel Osei Baffour (45+2)
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Thomas Abbey