By Anwar U. Larry from the Accra Sports Stadium
Accra Hearts of Oak were held to a 1-1 draw game by Liberty Professionals in the first game of the second round of the new season at the Accra Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Liberty striker Benjamin Eshun had put the visitors in the lead in the 34th minute, flicking the ball home from a good cross from Richard Boateng.
But Hearts, who found it difficult breaking down the stubborn Liberty defense, pulled level through Atingah's sixth goal of the season.
In the second half, the Phobians went close on a number of occasions to finding the winner but skipper Thomas Abbey, Patrick Razak, and Cosmos Dauda failed to find target.
The visitors could have left the stadium with all the points but Michael Ampadu was flagged offside despite appearing on after heading home a cross from Richard Boateng.
Head Coach Frank Nuttall made two changes to the side that beat Kotoku Royals 4-0 in the FA Cup, and maintained the same side that humbled Liberty 3-0 in Dansoman a fortnight ago.
Captain Abbey returned from suspension whilst Sam Yeboah was preferred to Cosmos in the starting XI.
Hearts did not start the game brightly but it was the visitors who took the initiative. Gerald Arkson went close twice, but he lifted high first from a free-kick on the edge of the D, and then fired wide when well placed after pouncing on the ball following a slip from Leonard Tawiah's tackle.
The Phobians first chance came in the 18th minute with Kwame Kizito and Richard Akrofi combining to release Razak. The winger held onto possession before teeing up Fatawu Mohammed who fired straight to goalkeeper Anning.
Nuttall's side had the momentum in their favor after that chance but Akrofi volleyed wide after latching on a cross from Winful Cobbinah in the 23rd minute.
Two minutes later, Sam Yeboah, unmarked at the back post and with the keeper off his line, failed to steer the ball home despite meeting a sweet cross from Cobbinah.
Atingah denied Bernard Arthur at the other end, but Cobbinah nearly caught the keeper off guard by going straight for goal when the Liberty defense expected a cross into the crowded box from a set-piece about 30 yards out.
The visitors had dominated the opening exchanges and threatened on a number of occasions on the right side of the Hearts defense led by the impressive Kissi Boateng, and so it came as no surprised when Liberty broke the deadlock through that flank.
Kissi Boateng sped off to the byline before sending a good cross into the box for Eshun to connect past Akurugu in the 34th minute.
10 minutes later, Hearts responded. After a beautiful combination play from the Phobians, Razak raced to reach a ball in the box ahead of the on-rushing goalkeeper Anning who brought down the Hearts winger for Referee S.B Bortey to point to the spot.
Atingah effected the penalty with aplomb to pull Hearts level just before the break.
The visitors once again started the second half on a brighter note and should have taken the lead but the flag had already gone up when Ampadu headed home in the 53rd minute.
Before that, Sarfo had drawn a superb save from Akurugu with a fizzling shot from range which the Hearts keeper fisted over the bar.
After that, Hearts strangled possession and took the game to Liberty. Abbey could not fire home despite reaching a good pass from Cobbinah in the 60th minute.
Eight minutes later, the Hearts No.10 took matters into his own hand by driving past two players in midfield, before dribbling Mubarak Yusif on the edge of the box and teeing up Kizito on the left. The striker decided to square the ball for Razak but the winger's lack of height was telling as he failed to steer his headed effort on target.
Hearts were getting the better chances as we reached the closing stages of the game but Razak fired narrowly wide after racing with the Liberty defense whilst Abbey fired straight for the keeper after being slipped through on goal by Cobbinah.
Substitute striker Cosmos could have made an impact but he checked his run and drove in-field when a first time shot could have sufficed.
The points were shared but Liberty enjoyed the bulk of possession and prevented Hearts from doing the double over them.
Hearts XI vs Liberty: Samuel Akurugu, Fatawu Mohammed, Kassenu Ghandy, Richard Akrofi, Vincent Atingah, Leonard Tawiah, Patrick Razak, Winful Cobbinah, Samuel Yeboah (61 Cosmos Dauda), Kwame Kizito (86 Isaac Mensah), Thomas Abbey (c).
Unused substitutes: Benjamin Mensah, Robert Addo, Samudeen Ibrahim, Malik Akowuah, Paul Acquah
Booked: Kassenu Ghandy (43), Richard Akrofi (51), Patrick Razak (55)
GOAL: Vincent Atingah (pen.) 45
Liberty XI vs. Hearts: Emmanuel Anning, William Dankyi, Prosper Avor, Samuel Sarfo (c), Mubarak Yusif, Simon Zibo (86 Kouassi Flavien), Michael Ampadu (74 Emmanuel Sarpong), Gerald Arkson, Bernard Arthur, Benjamin Eshun (69 Baba Zakari), Richard Kissi Boateng
Unused substitutes: Aikin Baffour, Brite Andoh, Samuel Annan, Eric Andoh
Booked:: Benjamin Eshun (44)
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: LEONARD TAWIAH
MATCH REFEREE: S.B BORTEY