By Anwar U. Larry from the Obuasi Len Clay Stadium
Accra Hearts of Oak struck gold and booked their place in the finals of the 2017 MTN FA CUP with a deserved 2-1 victory over Wa AllStars on Sunday.
Patrick Razak kept his cool to give Hearts a deserved lead in the first half before Kwame Kizito doubled the lead seven minutes into the second half.
Hearts had a couple of decent chances to extend their lead but they were denied first by the crossbar and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Razak was crushed in the box.
Substitute Samuel Mensah handed AllStars a lifeline by grabbing a goal moments after his introduction but Hearts held on to progress to a first FA CUP final in 17 years.
Head Coach Frank Nuttall made two changes to the side that drew 3-3 with Aduana before the league's hiatus a month ago.
Inusah Musah was handed a first start after 183 days on the sidelines replacing Vincent Atingah, who was on national duty with Black Stars having impressed for Ghana in the WAFU tournament.
Midfielder Malik Akowuah also returned to the side in place of Samudeen Ibrahim who was on suspension for picking three yellow cards.
Hearts had gotten the stage fright on their previous two FA CUP semi-final ties and they looked like repeating the same mistake as they handed territory and possession to AllStars in the opening 15 minutes.
Inusah gave away possession just close to the Hearts box but he quickly made amends to dispossess Kweku Asuandzie before the AllStars attacker could cause havoc.
Paul Asare De-Vries went close for AllStars but despite driving at the Hearts defense and skipping past Tawiah, he chose to shoot from range instead of taking advantage of the space in front of him.
Hearts slowly got themselves back into the game but when they opened AllStars up, Hafiz Adams produced an inch perfect tackle and clearance to stop Thomas Abbey in the box.
AllStars turned over possession and should have taken the lead but Nafiu Iddrisu shaved the top of the crossbar. Luckily for Hearts, the flag had gone up.
The Allstars miss sparked Hearts into action.
Cobbinah led a foray forward, darting last three players in midfield but his final pass for Razak was well read and intercepted.
From the next attack, Hearts took the lead. Abbey had seen Razak's intentions long before he received a pass in midfield and he instantly put the winger through on goal with an incisive pass.
Razak still had much to do with goalkeeper Rashid Seidu racing out but he kept his cool and planted the ball at the bottom left corner in the 31st minute.
AllStars tried to riposte immediately but they were exposed at the back when Abbey stood in a sweet cross for Razak. However, in acres of space and unmarked, the winger went for the audacious acrobatic connection only to fluff the chance. On any other day, the spurned opportunity would draw angst from the fans but no, not today.
Hearts pushed on again and looked certain to increase their lead after going on a breathtaking counter attack led by the impressive Malik Akowuah but after covering so much ground and positioning himself for a reverse pass, he slipped in the box when Razak returned the ball.
Against the run of play, AllStars created a superb chance with skipper Adams reaching the ball in the box after a flowing move but all alone and unmarked he hoofed the ball away with Ben Mensah at his mercy. It was the last chance of the half.
After the break, Hearts continued to press for the cushioning goal but they did not have to wait long to break AllStars' resistance.
Seven minutes had not elapsed when Kizito picked the ball up in the box and stabbed home our second goal of the game. The move before Kizito's strike was top notch with Hearts keeping possession for over a minute and biding their time before carving open the AllStars rearguard with the lanky striker applying the killer finish.
Razak went close but he missed by a fraction after weaving his way through the AllStars defense. Moments later, Kizito was unlucky as his goal bound shot came off the crossbar in the 59th minute.
Substitute Sam Mensah handed AllStars a way back into the game after smashing home with a lovely finish but the Phobians held on to their lead and reached a first FA Cup final in 17 years.
Hearts XI vs. AllStars: Benjamin Mensah, Fatawu Mohammed, Richard Akrofi, Robin Gnagne, Inusah Musah, Leonard Tawiah, Patrick Razak (87 Daniel Kordie), Malik Akowuah, Kwame Kizito (79 Cosmos Dauda), Winful Cobbinah, Thomas Abbey (c) (75 Joshua Otoo)
Booked: Fatawu Mohammed, Malik Akowuah (42)
Unused substitutes: Evans Gbeti, Robert Addo, Paul Acquah, Agbashi Dotse
GOALS: Patrick Razak (31), Kwame Kizito (52)
AllStars XI vs Hearts: Rashid Seidu, Hafiz Adams, Toufiq Razak, Eric Oppong, Wahidu Mumuni, Nasiur Moro, Kelvin Andoh (Sam Mensah), Nafiu Iddrisu, Asuandzie Baffoe (77 Kingsley Osei), Paul Asare, Jeffrey Degorl.
Booked: Toufiq Razak (5), Nasiru Moro (85)
Unused substitutes: Baba Musah, Rashid Alhassan, Shafiq Muntari, Eric Ametepe
GOAL: Samuel Mensah (68)
MATCH REFEREE: REGINALD LATHBRIDGE
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: MALIK AKOWUAH