Kumasi Asante Kotoko managed a pulsating 1-1 stalemate against Accra Hearts of Oak on match day 3 in Kumasi yesterday, thanks to Caleb Amankwa’s late header for the visitors.
The Porcupine Warriors, who looked not so strong on paper, prior to the big clash, following their painful exit from the Champions League,became the huge favourites with Hearts the underdogs, just 15 minutes into the game.
Both sides made series of incursions into the other’s half in an attempt to get the opener, but it was Kotoko who created more decent chances.
Heart had a great opportunity to take the lead, but Kwadwo Obeng Jnr shot wide,hitting the side of the net.
Hearts took control of the midfield in the early but their swift play was short-lived, as Kotoko quickly found answers to the intelligent display by midfield maestro GladsonAwaku.
Kotoko grew in confidence and carried the fight to their opponents, forcing Hearts right back Zakaria Yakubu to have his name registered in the referee’s book for a yellow card offence, following a foul on Isaac Oppong.
As the intensity of the game increased, left back Dennis Korsahwas also booked for fouling Stephen Amankona, whosepace and skills on the wing caused the Hearts defense some worries.
Though Hearts looked organised in midfield, the long passes failed to locate JuniorKabaand Obeng Junior upfront, as the duo were completely made ineffective by the central defenders of Kotoko, who cut the long passes to them.
Kotoko’s midfield,marshalled by skipper Richard Boadu distributed intelligent passes through the middle of the park and linked up with the attackers so well that the Phobian defenders struggled mostly in the first half.
But for poor decisions and shooting upfront, Kotoko could have taken the lead in the first half and perhaps scored one additional goal before the break.
Kotoko returned from the break more determined to do damage but a glorious opportunity presented to Mukwalaby the Phobian defenders was strangely wasted, as he shot poorly towards goal.
Kotoko’s appeal for two quick penalties in succession was both ignored by centre referee Yaw Bless.
Defender Mubarik Yssif shot from a close range to open the scores for Kotoko after Hearts failed to deal effectively with a free kick excellently converted on the side of the Phobian’s in the 18 yard box.
Hearts responded immediately with a move that nearly restored parity, but typical of their players upfront, the chance was amazingly wasted.
Kotoko contained playmaker Gladson Awuku who had to control the midfield for Hearts and determine their attacking directions and movements towards goal.
Sensing his inability to live up to the challenge after picking a knock, coach Samuel Boadu pulled him out.
Hearts’ moment of survival came through a powerful and incisive header from Caleb Amankwa who connected a free kick delivered by SeiduSuraj deep into the 18th yard box.A miraculous rainbow appeared in the sky, much to the delight of the Phobian fans.Caleb Amankwa rose to the occasion and headed home to rescue a point for the Phobians.