Monday, February 2, 2009


KUMASI Asante Kotoko are apparently lying in ambush, waiting for the rejuvenated old foes, Accra Hearts of Oak, to devour.
That Hearts of Oak are functioning at a relatively decent level against the backdrop of their rustiness last season can hardly be disputed. But the real test of their battle-readiness for the league title lies in Asante Kotoko.
Enjoying a four-point lead ahead of second-placed Asante Kotoko on the league table, Hearts can be said to be in shape for Sunday's epic battle, but similarly red-eyed are Kotoko that they are leaving nothing to chance to chalk a resounding victory.
From yesterday morning's training, they moved straight to camp to prepare for the grudge game against Hearts.
Predicting matches between the two sides is always difficult for the connoisseurs. Last season, Kotoko, then in great shape, nearly laughed at the wrong sides of their mouths, as they had to fight from behind twice to level 3-3 with Hearts at the Baba Yara Stadium.
Clearly, there is so much to fight for, both on the field and on the bench. That is why some see Sunday's clash as a game for the technical brains of the two sides.
The emergence of coach Isaac "Opeele" Boateng as assistant to Maurice Cooreman seems to have ignited the fire in the Kotoko team that had appeared moribund.
And with Kosta Papic moulding Hearts into an industrious side so far, there is no doubt that the technical direction would count very much in this ninth week Glo Premier League clash.
But in this potentially high tempo match between the giants, the twin ingredients of brain and brawn are essential, and it is from this angle that the players would sort things out.
Kotoko are not oblivious of the fact that only a win would revive their hope of retaining the trophy. This will demand extra effort to realise.
The Porcupine Warriors will enjoy the services of their trusted defender, Samuel Inkoom, for Sunday's match. The defender, who has been with the Black Satellites in Rwanda, will add extra spice to Kotoko's defensive play, which has been suspect in recent times.
Inkoom's contribution to Kotoko's performance has been unquestionable, and his return has raised hopes in Kumasi for a victory. His partnership with Ofosu Appiah, Godfred Yeboah and Samuel Nzemaba can provide a good protective cover for former Hearts goalkeeper, Sannie Mohammed, in post.
All eyes will be on Alex Asamoah who was a threat to Hearts when he played for Berekum Arsenals and Ashantigold.
But Hearts are not the side to wash away so easily especially when the stakes are so high. With determination to consolidate their position on the league table, expect the Phobians to come out with fury.
They will count on their most transformed player, Obed Ansah, to provide the fluidity in the middle, and if Eric Gawu and Ekow Ghansah find their lethal boots, the Kotoko rear will have to work extra hard to prevent any goals.
In other matches Ashgold play King Faisal at Obuasi, Hasaacas face All Blacks at Sekondi, Liberty host Kessben at the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra, Sporting Mirren and Arsenal also clash in Accra, Chelsea play Heart of Lions at Sunyani, Wa All Stars welcome Wise to Wa, while RTU engage Tema Youth at Tamale.

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