By Anwar U. Larry from the Tamale Utrecht Academy Park
Accra Hearts of Oak were held to a pulsating 3-3 draw game by Bolga AllStars at the Tamale Utrecht Academy Park on Wednesday.
Alex Kouami capitalized on a defensive error to bring Hearts level after a rollercoaster first half in which the visitors led at the break only to lose the initiative in the second half.
Vincent Atingah headed home the opener under 60 seconds of the start but the hosts fought back to level through substitute Alhassan Rahim.
Thomas Abbey once again put Hearts back in the lead going into the break, however, Bolga AllStars fought back to level through Ibrahim Giyasu before snatching the lead for the first time in the game through Rahim again.
Hearts fought back to draw level but left Tamale reeling about the manner in which they lost grip of the game.
Head Coach Frank Nuttall made three changes to the side that beat Sporting Mirren last Sunday. Bright Lukman, Kwame Kizito and Leonard Tawiah were handed their first starts of the league season.
Patrick Razak, and Samuel Yeboah dropped to the bench with Kassenu Ghandy missing out due to injury. In their stead came Fatawu Mohammed, Bright Lukman, and Joshua Otoo as the three changes from the Mirren game.
The grassless Tamale Utrecht Park pitch did not look fit for a Premier League action but what unfolded in the next 90 minute after referee O.B Amankwa commenced the game will live long in the memory of the pet fans that thronged the venue.
Atingah evaded markers in the crowded box to meet Winful Cobbinah’s inviting cross from a free-kick after Fatawu was fouled to head home right after the blast of the whistle. It was Atingah’s first ever goal for Hearts from open play (his second strike of the league season) and also the visitors’ first attack on the day
What a start. 1-0 for Hearts under 60 seconds!
The Phobians had jetted into Tamale in the early morning of Wednesday and as if to justify the decision, coach Nuttall’s side produced such a flying start.
Lukman was unlucky not to have won a clear penalty when he was charged down in the box. Referee O.B Amankwa pointed to the corner spot rather with the visitors expecting better. From the corner kick, Richard Akrofi crushed a powerful header onto the crossbar and back into play as Team Hearts cranked the pressure.
Soon, the hosts had to react and they took off two players at the same time in the 21st minute. Substitute Alhassan would go on to have a telling effect on the game. In fact, four minutes after his introduction, he ghosted past the Hearts defense to head home the equalizer following a well rehearsed free-kick routine that left the visitors flat-footed.
Hearts riposted immediately at the other end with a counter attack. Cobbinah once again swung in a very delightful free-kick which eluded the home defense for Abbey to sneak in a header at the far post in the 31st minute.
With the lead back in their hands, Hearts produced a profligate attacking spree. Cobbinah missed a good opportunity to extend the lead, firing straight into the keeper’s arms when placed through by a lovely flick from Kizito. The mercurial midfielder also failed to stab home when put through by Tawiah on a Hearts break. Instead, he cut inside to shoot, only for the hosts to clear the danger.
The chances kept coming in the way of the Phobians as halftime approached but Fatawu missed his step when clean through on goal, pushing the rebound out for Cobbinah to drag wide.
After the break, the wind went against the Phobians but that did not deter them from moving forward in droves. Coach Nuttall’s side were forced into a substitution just before the second half started after lanky striker Kizito complained of dizziness. The Hearts No.13 shirted player had run his socks off and been an outlet for the visitors in the air but when he failed to continue, Alex Kouami took over the role.
Against the run of play, the home side pulled level despite Samuel Akurugu blocking two strikes at goal with Ibrahim Giyasu profiting on the loose ball in the 54th minute.
Buoyed by the goal, the home fans kept urging their side on and it made for a wonderful spectacle as the two teams threw everything at each other. However, it was the hosts that benefitted from the frenzied nature of the game and it came as no surprise when Alhassan fired home in the 64th minute.
Hearts had lost their lead twice and now, they were heading for a defeat. It was a remarkable turnaround from the hosts but it only served to ginger coach Nuttall’s side.
Substitute Patrick Razak brought his speed to the game and he became an outlet for all the visitors’ forays upfront. The winger missed a perfect opportunity to pull Hearts level, dragging wide from close range.
However, his blushes were saved when Kouami forced an error in the home team defense. Cobbinah stood in a cross that was miscalculated by goalkeeper Suleiman Aziz and his center back. The defender headed the ball back for his keeper, who had gone off his line, for Kouami to capitalize and head home into the empty net in the 75th minute.
The visitors were level and they would not settle for a point as they kept pushing men forward. Hearts went close through Razak again but the winger did not bring his scoring boots as he fired into the side net with players well positioned expecting a cutback.
Lukman was denied by a finger tip save from Suleiman in the closing stages but Hearts returned home with a solitary point not knowing how they failed to pick the maximum point after twice taking the lead.
Hearts XI vs Bolga AllStars: Samuel Akurugu, Anthony Nimo, Joshua Otoo (65 Patrick Razak), Richard Akrofi, Vincent Atingah, Leonard Tawiah, Fatawu Mohammed (77 Paul Acquah), Winful Cobbinah, Kwame Kizito (46 Alex Kouami), Bright Lukman, Thomas Abbey (c)
Unused substitutes: Benjamin Mensah, Robert Addo, Daniel Kordie, Sam Yeboah.
Booked: Leonard Tawiah (60)
GOALS: Vincent Atingah (1), Thomas Abbey (31), Alex Kouami (75)
Bolga AllStars XI vs Hearts: Suleiman Aziz, Yusif Gomah (c ), Imoro Ibrahim, Rashid Bello (21 Alhassan Rahim), Issahaku Wahid, Abdulai Hafi (59 Alhassan Abdullai), Sam Norgbey (21 Abdullah Razak), Abubakar Latif, Fuseini Ganiu, Noah Neequaye, Mohammed Rasheed, Ibrahim Giyasu
Unused substitutes: Abu Latif, Dennis Badiwon, Sahadu Adams, Annaba Emmanuel.
GOALS: Alhassan Rahim (25, 62), Ibrahim Giyasu (54)
MATCH REFEREE: O.B Amankwah
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Alhassan Rahim