By Anwar U. Larry from the Cape Coast Sports Stadium
Accra Hearts of Oak started 2018 with a lone goal victory over Karela FC in the opening game of the 2018 GHALCA 8 tournament.
Isaac Ike Mensah scored the only goal of the game a few minutes to the half hour mark, heading home at close range and making sure Cosmos Dauda's goalbound effort had crossed the line.
The Phobians had a few good chances to extend their lead but they were made to fight hard for all three points by a stubborn Karela side.
Coach Frank Nuttall named a strong squad, for the game but Winful Cobbinah had to make do with a role on the bench.
Hearts took time to get going but when they hit their stride, Cosmos should have placed home after Patrick Razak had stretched the Karela defense and cooked a wonderful pass for the striker. But he had already taken a step forward and completely missed the ball with the net gaping.
Cosmos was not perturbed by the miss as he quickly turn provider a few minutes later. The striker swiveled past his man before clipping the ball towards goal for the on-rushing Mensah to head home in the 28th minute.
Hearts should have doubled their lead immediately but when Malik Akowuah's scorching strike was pushed out by goalkeeper Nii Kalala, Razak failed to stab home from close range before the flag went up.
The Phobians still had a couple of chances to go into the break with a two-goal cushion but they failed to find target.
After the break, Hearts slowly got into the game but Karela threw everything forward in the closing stage.
It allowed the Phobians a perfect opportunity to hit on the break but they were denied by the finest of margins when substitute Daniel Kordie's strike cannoned off the crossbar after a slight push from the Karela keeper.
Hearts did not need to get out of gear and they kept their composure at the back as they claimed their first win of the New Year.
Hearts XI vs Karela: Benjamin Mensah, Christopher Bonney, Joshua Otoo, Richard Akrofi, Inusah Musah (c), Alhassan Amin (61 Benjamin Kotey), Patrick Razak, Malik Akowuah (72 Daniel Kordie), Cosmos Dauda (84 Selasi Heymann), Samudeen Ibrahim, Isaac Mensah.
Unused substitutes: Theophilus Jackson, Robert Addo, Winful Cobbinah, Bright Lukman.
Booked: Alhassan Amin (13), Patrick Razak (66), Inusah Musah (89).
MATCH REFEREE: Kennedy Pady.