Story: Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi
ACCRA Hearts of Oak defied the form guide to hold Kumasi Asante Kotoko to a 3-3 draw in an outstanding Onetouch Premier League match at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi yesterday.
In an electrifying atmosphere at the stadium filed to capacity, Hearts fought from a goal down in just 10 minutes to twice take the lead before Kotoko clawed back the third goal to level the final score.
Having performed abysmally all season, many had written the Phobians off before the match, but in characteristic fashion they held their own against their arch-rivals and now-fearsome Asante Kotoko.
Aware of the skilful play of the Porcupine Warriors, Hearts’ modus operandi was to come in physically at the back, and they did it in full force to cut out many ferocious attacks.
Showing false glimpses of what was in store for Hearts, Kotoko roared into the match with unstoppable attacks from the flanks where Jordan Opoku on the left and Francis Akwaffo on the right were a constant threat for Hassan Mohammed and Stephen Ofei.
The hard tackles from the Hearts defence notwithstanding, a goal looked imminent for Kotoko, and it did arrive just 10 minutes into the game when Jordan Opoku, wide on the left, cheekily worked on Coleman before locating Kwadwo Poku in space to crack home powerfully into the near post.
When all thought Hearts would break up for more goals, they concentrated and tried to avoid mistakes at the rear. Their comeback was swift. A free kick near the Kotoko area in the 14th minute saw Bernard Dong-Bortey, who played brilliantly on the afternoon, finishing off from a crowded area.
It was a shocker of a goal for Kotoko who had been tipped to run riot, and for a greater part of the game they failed to play to their full potential.
Twice on the 18th and 21st minutes, Dong Bortey came close, signalling danger for Kotoko, but when Kotoko turned on the heat, Vardis had to draw on experience to keep the league’s leading scorer, Eric Bekoe, off scoring range in the 40th minute.
Richard Manu failed to clear following a tussle with Ekow Ghansah in the 41st minute, and the powerful striker maintained his composure to run 35 yards to draw goalkeeper Soulama out of his post before finding the net for Hearts’ second goal.
What a shocker it was for Kotoko, but they organised very well in the middle with Stephen Oduro in full attendance to push Hearts back, which eventually paid off with Bekoe scoring a great goal in the 43rd minute.
All pointed to an afternoon of goals, and Hearts responded again on the stroke of half time with a free kick by Francis Bossman from some 30 yards out, which, like a monsoon, swept through a forest of legs into the net.
Confused keeper Soulma never returned again for the second hallf as Eric Nii Baah took his place.
Always in the thick of events, Oduro capped an afternoon of brilliance with an equalising goal five minutes into the second half.
Coach Bashir Hayford introduced Emmanuel Osei Kuffour into the game in the 52nd minute, replacing Akwaffo, but the former Hearts of Oak offensive midfielder was a bundle of nerves, just like his former teammate at Hearts, Ishmael Addo, who also replaced Bossman in the 66th minute.
FIFA referee William Agbovi had to pull out his yellow card for Hearts’ Dong Bortey (75th), Kofi Abanga (76th) and Ofei (78th) for various offences.