By Anwar U. Larry from the Babayara Sports Stadium

Accra Hearts of Oak were beaten 4-1 on penalties by arch-rivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko in the 2017 President’s Cup game played at the Babyara Sports Stadium on Monday.

 The Phobians had fought admirably in the contest and were on top when the game was rained off last Sunday, but they could not replicate their performance as they fell to a penalty shoot-out defeat in the rescheduled game on Monday.

Hitherto penalty experts for Hearts, Vincent Atingah and Robin Gnagne missed their kicks in the shoot-out with Richard Akrofi scoring to give us a lifeline, but Kotoko converted all their kicks to retain the Cup.

Despite referee William Agbovi’s hard attempts to mar the beauty of the game, Team Hearts kept their cool and played according to the game plan of coach Wellington.

With two strikers, Alex and Kizito, leading the attack, Abbey and Razak on opposite flanks and Samudeen Ibrahim and Leonard Tawiah in central midfield, and defenders Nimo, Fatawu, Gnagne, and Atingah completing the back four, Hearts came into the game with a 4-4-2 formation.

It took a lot of time for the Phobians to settle but when they did, goalkeeper Felix Annan should have been handed a straight red-card for a malicious challenge on Kwame Kizito in the 24th minute of the game. The Hearts striker had raced to the ball ahead of the keeper, who came all the way out of his goal area, to dive in with his foot on Kizito, but despite Annan being the last man, he only escaped with a derisive yellow card.

The tackle from the Kotoko keeper ended Kizito’s afternoon and his place had to be taken by Paul Acquah.

With the forced substitution, Coach Lamptey re-jigged his side and pushed Razak just behind the lone striker Alex Kouami. It almost worked to perfection when the Ivorian slammed a powerful cross across the face of goal for Acquah on the opposite the flank. The winger unselfishly cut the ball back for Razak who saw his goal bound effort cleared off the line by Evans Quao in the 34th minute.

Two minutes later, Samudeen whizzed a shot just inches over the bar after a lovely tee up from Razak. Hearts were finishing the half the stronger but if they were to be any complaints about the Phobians’ approach, it was the fact that they wanted to walk the ball into the net with their short passes inside the Kotoko box. 

The two sides went into the break with the score at 0-0.

Neither side could break the deadlock in the second half for the game to travel to the lottery of the spot kicks. Amos Frimpong, Jackson Owusu, Evans Quao, and Sadick Adams converted to win the trophy for Kotoko.

However, Hearts fans made the game an unforgettable moment for the players, supporting and cheering on the team despite the defeat.

Hearts XI vs Kotoko: Benjamin Mensah, Fatawu Mohammed, Anthony Nimo, Vincent Atingah, Robin Gnagne, Leonard Tawiah, Patrick Razak, Samudeen Ibrahim (61 Malik Akowuah), Alexandre Kouami, Kwame Kizito (Paul Acquah), Thomas Abbey (c ).

Unused substitutes: Evans Gbeti, Robert Sowah-Addo, Isaac Mensah, Bright Lukman

Booked: Thomas Abbey (7), Samudeen Ibrahim (21), Vincent Atingah (77), Richard Akrofi (82)

Kotoko XI vs Hearts: Felix Annan, Amos Frimpong (c ), Augustine Sefa, Evans Quao, Ahmed Adams (58 Richard Osei Agyemang), Jackson Owusu, Seth Opare, Emmanuel Gyamfi (94 Michael Akuffo), Baba Mahama, Obed Owusu, Yakubu Mohammed (70 Sadick Adams)

Unused substitutes: Isaac Amoako,, Awudu Nafiu, Sarfo-Gyamfi, Ohene Brenya

Booked: Felix Annan (24), Sadick Adams (77)

MATCH REFEREE: William Agbovi