By Anwar U. Larry from the Accra Sports Stadium

Accra Hearts of Oak beat Sporting Mirren 2-1 to progress to the round of 32 of the 2017 MTN FA CUP competition at the Accra Sports Stadium on Sunday. 

Patrick Razak put the home team back in the lead, latching on a weighted pass from Winful Cobbinah before rounding the goalkeeper to stab home eight minutes into the second half.

Right back Anthony Nimo scored his first ever goal for Hearts, tapping home a Razak crosss in the 25th minute of action but the visitors drew level 11 minuter later through a wonderful strike from captain Jewel Arthur.

Mirren were no pushovers and they made coach Frank Nuttall’sside to sweat for the victory.

Leonard Tawiah and Kwame Kizito were handed their first starts of the campaign as part of five changes from the last game. Kassenu Ghandy, Sam Yeboah, and Paul Acquah 

The Phobians started the game very brightly and went close to opening the scoring in as early as the fourth minute of action. Sam Yeboah saw his goal-bound shot cleared off the line after Mirren goalkeeper Benjamin Asare made a harsh of his save. Thomas Abbey followed the half cleared rebound with a scissor kick in the box but it sailed wide.

At the other end, the visitors went close but the unmarked Elliot Apotey headed wide from a corner kick. Mirren were back again in the Hearts box but though Festus Nutakor beat Razak to an aerial ball, he headed straight for Akurugu to save. Moments later, Vincent Atingah also headed over, unmarked in the area, after getting to the end of Razak’s well weighted cross.

Hearts were getting closer to finding the opener but Kizito glanced wide when found by Ghandy’s cross with the keeper off his line.

But the Phobians did not have to wait long when Anthony Nimostabbed home from close range after a well worked move. The right back combined with Razak on the flanks before bombing into the box to meet the winger’s cross and poke home in the 25thminute.

The visitors were not undone by the goal but rather it pushed them forward. Mirren won over possession and sent in a warning when striker Bright Korley struck wide from range. 

Captain Jewel Arthur, however found target, when Hearts failed to clear the ball, arcing the ball from the outside of the box into the top corner to beat the back-tracking Akurugu in the 36thminute. 

Buoyed by the goal, the visitors went forward again but Arthur curled his free-kick over the wall but straight to Akurugu before Korley also fired low to the right of the Hearts keeper just before the break.

After the break, the Phobians started the half just like they did in the first half with a lot of urgency and direct attacking. Cobbinah lifted a free-kick into the waiting arm of the keeper from 25 yards.

But the mercurial midfielder turned creator, slipping Razakthrough on goal as the home side cranked the pressure. Razakdid well to round the keeper after changing the direction of the ball before slapping the ball into an empty net in the 53rd minute to put Hearts back in the lead again.  

Three minutes later, Paul Acquah replaced the stricken Ghandy, who could not shake off a knock picked up in the first half. The enforced substitution saw a re-jig in defense with Abbey dropping to left back whilst Acquah took over the attacking wing.

Soon, the two combined on the left flank to send an inviting cross for strikers Kizito and Yeboah but neither of them could reach the ball. 

Mirren sent in another warning after winning a free-kick on the right side of the Hearts defense. Joseph Quarshie kept Akuruguin two minds with the keeper not knowing whether the Mirrendefender will go at goal or send in a cross. He went for the former and drew an unorthodox save from the Hearts keeper in the 66th minute.

Nuttall took off Razak for Bright Lukman in the 67th minute as Hearts went in search of more goals.

Yeboah did well to control a lovely pass from Cobbinah with his chest but fired straight at the keeper after doing all the good work.  

The hosts kept possession really well as they probed for more goals. Lukman was unlucky to have the ball cleared as he shaped to meet the ball acrobatically at the far post after good work from Kizito.

Hearts looked like adding to their tally with their fine attacking style but the players were missing the killer pass in the final third allowing Mirren to cover the spaces.

The game ended 2-1 in favor of Hearts and they await the draw to find out their next opponents in the cup competition.

But before then, there’s a long trip to Tamale coming up on Wednesday as Hearts face Bolga AllStars. 

Hearts XI vs SPORTING MIRREN: Samuel Akurugu, Anthony Nimo, Kassenu Ghandy (56 Paul Acquah), Richard Akrofi, Vincent Atingah, Leonard Tawiah, Patrick Razak ( 67 Bright Lukman), Winful Cobbinah, Kwame Kizito, Sam Yeboah (87 Samudeen Ibrahim), Thomas Abbey (c )

Unused substitutes: Benjamin Mensah, Robert Addo, Alex Kouami, Daniel Kodie

Booked: Thomas Abbey (91)

GOALS: Anthony Nimo (25), Patrick Razak (53)

SPORTING MIRREN XI vs HEARTS: Benjamin Asare, Jewel Arthur, Joseph Quarshie, Richard Sewu, Elliot Apotey, Isaac Appiah, Festus Nutakor (90 Benjamin Manu), Jacob Djabanor, Bright Korley, Timothy Darbah (64 Benjamin Adia)

Unused substitutes: Emmanuel Addy, Vincent Odoi, Osman Abdulai, Jihad Fattal, Ernest Kusi

Booked Isaac Appiah (18)

GOAL: Jewel Arthur (36)

MATCH REFEREE: Charles Bulu

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Winful Cobbinah

BEST DEFENDER: Richard Akrofi

MOST PROMISING: Festus Nutakor