By Anwar Umar Larry from the Accra Sports Stadium
Accra Hearts of Oak booked their place in the last 16 of the 2016/17 MTN FA CUP with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Kotoku Royals on Sunday.
Vincent Atingah scored a brace from two spot kicks awarded the Phobians after Patrick Razak was felled in either half whilst Kwame Kizito and Cosmos Dauda added their names to the scoring sheet.
10-man Kotoku Royals were made to pay dearly on the day, having given away a penalty in the first half before their keeper received a straight red-card after denying Razak a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Strikers Kizito and Cosmos also put their names forward as contenders for coach Frank Nuttall’s attacking slot with a goal each. The former scored after an exquisite buildup involving Cosmos whilst Kizito returned the favor with a tailored-cross that the Hearts No.14 headed home.
The Phobians booked their place into the next stage of the cup competition and they await the draw to know who the face. But judging by their recent upsurge in form, Hearts will not shudder against any opponents in the next round.
Head Coach Frank Nuttall made two changes to the side that beat Liberty 3-0 in the last match. Thomas Abbey served a one-game suspension after picking three yellow cards with Paul Acquah taking his place.
Cosmos’ cameo role against Liberty, when he came off the bench to score, was rewarded with a start and it forced Sam Yeboah to drop to the bench.
Kotoku Royals got off to a bright start in this encounter and were really unfazed in their play. The visitors could have shot into the lead in the early minutes but their striker inexplicably missed a simple tap in opportunity with goalkeeper Samuel Akurugu at his mercy.
Soon, the visitors signaled another warning when Nurudeen Seidu peeled away at the back post to head on target from a free-kick.
Hearts riposted at the other end through a beautiful combination involving Acquah and Fatawu Mohammed. The duo had combined on the right side of attack to create an opening in the Kotoku Royals box but Fatawu’s cross-cum-shot was cleared out with Cosmos waiting to pull the trigger.
On the next Hearts attack, defender Nurudeen lost his footing for Razak to scamper through on goal but his run was impeded by a late tackle from Kotoku Royals skipper Kingsley Afriyie. Center Referee Daniel Dogbetor did not hesitate to point to the spot.
Atingah elected to effect and he calmly placed the ball into the bottom corner from the spot kick in the 21st minute. It was the towering center-back’s first goal at the Accra Sports Stadium since his match-winning penalty against Kotoko; incidentally, this goal came in the 21st minute and on the 21st day of the month from the Hearts No.21 shirted defender.
Buoyed by the goal, the Phobians completely overturned the complexion of the game and began to display some sumptuous possession-based football.
In the 32nd minute, defensive midfielder Leonard Tawiah wobbled off having picked a head injury but he returned to continue the game to the end of the half.
Against the run of play, Kotoku Royal’s Patrick-Razak-look-alike Dickson Afum raced into the box and set the ball on a plate for striker Richard Dzikoe, but he scuffed his shot to the respite of the home fans.
Two minutes later, Hearts shot into the lead again. Cosmos had peeled off to the right wing before dribbling past his marker and driving a sweet cross to the other side for the striding Razak. The Hearts diminutive winger met the ball on the volley but his shot was pushed out by goalkeeper Victor Washington. Kizito was in the right spot to rifle the rebound home in the 34th minute.
Unperturbed by being two goals down, Kotoku Royals still continued to attack. They were denied by an Atingah clearance on the line after drawing Akurugu out of position in the 40th minute.
Again, the visitors hit the crossbar from a powerful free-kick from the foot of Edmond Peprah about 25 yards out from goal. And shortly before the whistle, Clement Boateng was put off by the impressive Richard Akrofi, who managed to block the striker’s shot, after Akurugu gifted away possession in the box.
Just before the restart, Malik Akowuah replaced Leonard Tawiah who had picked up a head injury. But not even his calming presence could stop the visitors from their exciting approach.
Undaunted by the two first half goals they conceded, the visitors started quite brightly again, forcing Akurugu into two successive saves. First the keeper had to come off his line to smother a goal-bound effort back into play and Clement Boateng attempted the spectacular, scissor-kicking the rebound before Akurugu tipped it over for a corner kick.
Kotoku Royals continued to make the game a spectacle with their all-attack approach but it was strange that they could not hit target despite Dzikoe weaving his way through the Hearts defense before chipping Akurugu in the 60th minute.
Hearts responded at the other end but Kizito’s effort was ruled offside after thumping a header home from a Razak cross.
But the Phobians would not be denied on next attack. Cosmos started it after winning the ball in midfield before racing with it and spreading play to the right for Kizito. The lanky striker stood up a return cross into the box for Cosmos to glance home with his head in the 74th minute.
Three minutes later, Razak took on the whole Kotoku Royals defense before he was brought down by goalkeeper Washington, but though Cosmos quickly stabbed home the loose ball, referee Dogbetor had already whistled for a penalty.
Before the spot-kick, goalkeeper Washington received his marching orders for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity with Benjamin Boateng replacing an outfield player. Bright Lukman and Isaac Mensah were introduced three minutes apart, replacing Kizito and Cosmos respectively.
When calm returned, Atingah once again slotted home from the spot kick to put Hearts four goals up against the Division One side in the 82nd minute.
The Phobians did not do much after that having put up an efficient but not effervescent performance against Kotoku Royals to book their place into the last 16 of the competition.
HEARTS XI vs KOTOKU ROYALS: Samuel Akurugu, Fatawu Mohammed, Kassenu Ghandy, Richard Akrofi (c ), Vincent Atingah, Leonard Tawiah (46 Malik Akowuah), Patrick Razak, Winful Cobbinah, Cosmos Dauda (80 Isaac Mensah), Kwame Kizito (77 Bright Lukman), Paul Acquah
Unused substitutes: Benjamin Mensah, Robert Addo, Samudeen Ibrahim, Samuel Yeboah
Booked: Richard Akrofi (45), Winful Cobbinah (49)
GOALS: Vincent Atingah (pen. 21, 82), Kwame Kizito 34, Cosmos Dauda 74
KOTOKU ROYALS XI vs HEARTS: Victor Washington (RED CARDED; BENJAMIN BOATENG), Kingsley Afriyie (c ), Nurudeen Seidu, Robert Tetteh, Richard Dzikoe, Edward Mensah, Joe Boateng, Stephen Kofi, Edmond Peprah, Clement Boateng, Dickson Afum (63 Forster Addae)
Unused substitutes: Prince Gyan, Adu Twum, Patrick Boadi, Frederick Kumi
Booked: Kingsley Afriyie (20), Victor Washington (RED CARD)
MATCH REFEREE: Daniel Dogbetor
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Winful Cobbinah
BEST DEFENDER: Richard Akrofi.