By Anwar U. Larry from the Accra Sports Stadium
Accra Hearts of Oak beat WAFA 2-1 to end their seven game run at the Accra Sports Stadium on Monday.
Thomas Abbey and Winful Kwaku Cobbinah scored in either half to set Hearts on course for the victory but the visitors pulled a goal back late in the game through Abubakari Ibrahim to set up a nervy finish.
Coach Frank Nuttall made three changes to the side that drew with Bolga AllStars in the last game. Ghandy Kassenu was handed a first start in the league replacing Joshua Otoo at right back whilst Samuel Yeboah and Patrick Razak returned to the starting XI.
The Phobians were comprehensively beaten by WAFA last season and going into the game, the league leaders had looked nailed on to bother Frank Nuttall’s side.
Hearts started the game very brightly and with barely three minutes on the clock, they shot into the lead. Kwame Kizito was fouled close to the byline for Cobbinah to effect. The mercurial midfielder's cultured left-foot found the head of Abbey in the crowded box and the captain made no mistake by powering home at close range despite goalkeeper Razak Abalora’s hapless attempt to smother the danger.
The fans had not found their seat yet and the boys were already flying on the field of play.
WAFA regrouped and slowly pushed Hearts back but the defensive unit of Akrofi and Atingah coupled with the midfield steel of Leonard Tawiah made openings difficult for the visitors who had no choice than to take long pops from range as they tried to unsettle the Hearts defense.
Hearts were coasting and they should have doubled their lead in the 15th minute. Strikers Kizito and Yeboah eluded their markers at the back post to meet a sweet free-kick cross from Cobbinah but they got in each other’s way and failed to communicate for the chance to go waste.
Buoyed by the goal, the Hearts were dominating proceeding but they were not creating clear cut chances. Patrick Razak took the whole WAFA defense on and darted his way into the box but he fired straight at Abalora in the 23rd minute. Abbey failed to react to the rebound for the visitors to clear.
Komla Agbeniadan, who had tormented the Phobians last season, fell inside the box with no contact from Akrofi as WAFA made a rare incursion inside the Hearts box. Soon, they were back again but though Aminu Musah beat Atingah for pace, right back Fatawu Mohammed had covered enough ground to clear the ball off the foot of the WAFA winger.
The Phobians should have doubled their tally in the 40th minute but after Fatawu swung in a beautiful cross from the right, Kizito missed the ball by inches, but Abbey lifted wide after following through on the ball.
After the break, the Phobians could not replicate their swagger of the opening minutes of the first half as they ceded possession to the visitors. The plan gave WAFA wings and they pushed Hearts back with their delightful possession-based football.
Razak and Leonard Tawiah, who had shielded the defense solidly, picked up muscle injuries and were soon replaced by Acquah and Kodie.
However, before Daniel Kodie’s introduction, substitute Acquah was fouled about 30 yards from the WAFA box. Cobbinah stood over the ball and when he lifted the ball into the box, Abalora came out to smother but he failed to grasp the ball with pressure from Sam Yeboah, and the ball trickled home to the delight of the home fans.
The goal was Cobbinah’s second of the campaign and all his goals have come from set-pieces. He had setup Abbey for the first goal of the game with his sixth assist of the season and he deserved to be on the score-sheet.
Exhibition stuff followed from Nuttall’s charges as they toyed with WAFA to the excitement of the home fans. Cobbinah titillated the crowd with his touches, dribbles, darts, and runs and he was unlucky not to have scored a goal-of-the-season contender, when he acrobatically attempted to scissor-kick a delightful chipped effort from Fatawu into the net. He failed but he was still applauded for the audacious attempt with his back to goal.
Hearts took their foot off the gas in the closing stages and it allowed WAFA the room to find target. Akurugu had done well to tip out two set-pieces delivered into the box but he was in no man’s land when Abubakari Ibrahim tapped home from close range to pull a goal back for the visitors.
WAFA’s consolation goal setup a nervy end to the game but Akurugu took a leaf out of Razak Abalora’s book of time-wasting by winding down the clock in injury time.
Hearts had finished the job and got all three points to move into third on the league log ahead of this weekend’s clash with Liberty Professionals.
HEARTS XI vs WAFA: Samuel Akurugu, Fatawu Mohammed, Kassenu Ghandy, Richard Akrofi, Vincent Atingah, Leonard Tawiah (66 Daniel Kodie), Patrick Razak (58 Paul Acquah), Winful Cobbinah, Kwame Kizito, Samuel Yeboah (77 Alexandre Kouami), Thomas Abbey (c)
Unused substitutes: Benjamin Mensah, Robert Addo, Samudeen Ibrahim, Bright Lukman
Booked: Winful Cobbinah (42)
GOALS: Thomas Abbey (3), Winful Cobbinah (63)
WAFA XI vs HEARTS: Razak Abalora, Caleb Amankwa, Omar Chieck (64 Emmanuel Boateng), Nuhu Musah, Ibrahim Abubakari, Gideon Waja, Jusitce Amate (54 Richard Danso), Majeed Ashimeru, Komla Agbeniadan, Ibrahim Wahab, Aminu Musah (Richmond Lamptey)
Unused substitutes: Umar Basiru, Richmond Ayi, Francis Boateng, Adam Inusah
Booked: Gideon Waja (16), Abubakari Ibrahim (78), Richard Danso (79)
GOAL: Abubakari Ibrahim (88)
MATCH REFEREE: Prince Amoah
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Fatawu Mohammed