By Anwar U. Larry from the Babayara Sports Stadium
Accra Hearts of Oak were held to a 1-1 draw game by Kumasi Asante Kotoko in the rescheduled match-day 23 Ghana Premier League game on Sunday.
Kwame Kizito put Hearts on course for victory with a close range finish, tapping home Fatawu Mohammed's inviting pass after magical work by Winful Cobbinah, to break the deadlock on the hour mark.
But referee Emmanuel Daly Gagba controversially pointed to the spot when Leonard Tawiah appeared to cleanly head the ball away from danger in the 79th minute.
Sadick Adams fired past Benjamin Mensah to restore parity in the 80th minute.
The Kotoko attacker could have won it late on for the Porcupines but he fired wide from close range under pressure from Fatawu.
Hearts did not disappoint on the day themselves and should feel hard done by the result having looked the better side throughout the encounter.
Coach Frank Nuttall made three changes to his side for the encounter welcoming back-from-suspension duo Winful Cobbinah and Leonard Tawiah with Samudeen Ibrahim also getting a start.
The hosts started the game quite well and had two good opportunities to take the lead. First, Adams fired a low shot that forced Ben Mensah into a double save in the fourth minute of action. And Kotoko thought they had gone a goal up when Sadick drove in a beautiful cross into the box from a free kick, but Ahmed Adams failed to steer it on target.
The Phobians took time to settle and when they did, they should have gone ahead. Patrick Razak was put through on goal but instead of teeing up the on-rushing Thomas Abbey on the opposite flank, the speedster went alone and drew a good save from Felix Annan.
The chance signaled the beginning of full domination of the game from the visitors. Hearts went close again with Razak in the thick of affairs, but despite the winger being tripped in the box, he got back up and attempted to chase the ball only to lose his foot. Referee Daly Gagba and his assistant overlooked the clear penalty appeal from the Phobians.
Hearts attacked again led by Kizito but though he drove infield, he fired straight at goalkeeper Annan from the left side. At the other end, Sadick theatrically fell, awaiting contact from Robin Gnagne when he had a chance to dart through in the box, but Gagba allowed play to continue failing to book the Kotoko striker for the irking appeal.
The visitors continued to apply the pressure, hemming Kotoko in their half, but they just could not find target despite creating half scoring chances. Vincent Atingah did well to fetch Samudeen on the edge of the box but the midfielder’s volleyed effort rose inches over the bar.
Kotoko went close on the break but Baba Mahama fired at goal from an impossible angle only to see his shot fly out wide. The referee started losing control of the game with Hearts clearly on top of proceedings, as he failed to book Emmanuel Gyamfi for clearly tugging Fatawu’s shirt when the Phobians had an opportunity to break.
Shortly afterwards, Jackson Owusu dived into the fullback with a two-footed lunge forcing Fatawu to go off for treatment but yet again, Gagba decided against booking the Kotoko player.
Hearts continued to dominate when the game was allowed to flow but Kizito was once again stopped by goalkeeper Annan after latching on Richard Akrofi’s pass. The Kotoko keeper tried to release his side on the break after the save but he threw the ball straight to Fatawu on the edge of the box. Fatawu pushed forward but lifted his shot inches over the bar.
After the break, Team Hearts were put under the cosh by the Porcupines in a 10-minute spell. Ben Mensah had to be alert to palm out Gyamfi’s cross-cum-shot in the 57th minute before the Phobians got going again at the other end.
After weathering the Kotoko storm, Hearts broke clear at the other end. It was a thing of beauty initiated by the magical Hearts No.10. Cobbinah was at the heart of it, darting past markers before cleverly conjuring to divide the Kotoko defense like the red sea with a sweet ball into space for the marauding Fatawu.
The right back had busted his lungs to get to the ball and better was to come when he cushioned the ball underneath Adams for Kizito to stab home in the 60th minute.
Our fans had been brilliant on the day from the referee's blast of the whistle but they reached nirvana of joy, blasting boisterously as the players approached the score-board-end to celebrate.
Kotoko reacted immediately but Gyamfi was denied by Benjamin Mensah. Referee Gagba took center stage again, flashing cards in the way of the Phobians at the least offense with Fatawu and Tawiah going into the book.
The hosts probed and probed but they were handed a lifeline by referee Gagba, who amazingly pointed to the spot when Tawiah headed Amos Frimpong’s shot out of the area. Hearts players and supporters alike were raged by the decision but Kotoko were elated. Sadick made no mistakes as he restored parity leaving the Phobians with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Hearts XI vs KOTOKO: Benjamin Mensah, Fatawu Mohammed, Richard Akrofi, Vincent Atingah, Robin Gnagne, Leonard Tawiah, Patrick Razak, Samudeen Ibrahim, Kwame Kizito, Winful Cobbinah (90 Malik Akowuah), Thomas Abbey
Unused substitutes: Evans Gbeti, Anthony Nimo, Robert Addo, Bright Lukman, Isaac Mensah, Cosmos Dauda
Booked: Fatawu Mohammed (68), Leonard Tawiah (76), Winful Cobbinah (83)
GOAL: Kwame Kizito (60)
Kotoko XI vs HEARTS: Felix Annan, Amos Frimpong, Augustine Sefa, Ahmed Adams, Awal Mohammed, Jackson Owusu, Emmanuel Gyamfi, Seth Opare, Obed Owusu (71 Yakubu Mohammed), Sadick Adams, Baba Mahama (77 Sarfo Gyamfi)
Unused substitutes: Ernest Sowah, Edwin Tuffour, Prince Acquah, Kwame Boahen, Eric Donkor
Booked: Sadick Adams, Emmanuel Gyamfi
GOAL: Sadick Adams (pen.) 80
MATCH REFEREE: Emmanuel Daly Gagba