ACCRA Hearts of Oak completed the double over rivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko with a copybook 1-0 victory in their top liner at the Baba Yara Stadium yesterday.
The large number of phobian supporters who watched the match, celebrated at the final whistle of referee S.B. Bortey in a manner that suggested they felt they had taken a significant stride towards retaining the trophy they won with much difficulty last season.
Striker Samuel Afum, who exhibited exceptional footwork all afternoon, fetched the decisive goal from the spot after 43 minutes.
For Kotoko, it was double agony as their dependable defender, Gideon Baah, was whisked away to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in an ambulance after sustaining what appeared a terrible injury on the 13th minute.
The traditional tension associated with matches between the two sides was hugely evident and even before the game started Kotoko’s Stephen Manu had been booked because he had entered the Hearts post to shake the net.
Starting on a fast note, the match was characterised initially by some crunch tackles with the referee coming out with decisions, some of which did not go down well with the fans.
With their supporters calling for nothing but victory, Kotoko appeared under pressure to score but they only huffed and puffed fighting to get a way past the tactically disciplined Hearts defence where Philip Boampong was in excellent shape.
The first serious threat on the afternoon came from Samuel Afum on the 12th minute when the striker exploded in full measure but Isaac Owusu did a brilliant work, pushing the ball for a corner kick.
The pace and variety of Esme Mends, Kofi Abanga and Obed Ansaah started to tell on the Hearts game as they drove the attack forward.
By the first quarter of the game keepers MacCarthy and Amoako had not been tested.
Once again reshuffling his attack, coach Paa Kwesi Fabin this time played Kwadwo Poku and Stephen Manu on top, but both laboured on the afternoon.
Gradually Kotoko improved and started applying some pressure on Hearts. However, Stephen Manu who was released down the right on the 24th minute entered the area only to tumble over the chance.
Keeper McCarthy was called to duty on the 25th minute directing a goal bound shot over the bar on the 25th minute.
Hearts sent their fans roaring with two minutes to end the half when striker Eric Gawu who had run past Isaac Owusu after the defender had given a weak back pass to his keeper was brought down by the defender for the penalty, which Afum converted.
Events just after the interval saw Kotoko in full control and on the 48th minute Boampong’s defensive acumen was brought to bear on his team when he swept the ball of the advancing Stephen Manu.
Hearts were intent on adopting the counter-attacking approach, allowing Kotoko space and possession.
Douglas Nkrumah was pulled out for Tawrick Jibril after 58 minutes and the young midfielder tried to drive through the middle but most often failed ..
Finding it extremely difficult to cut through from inside, Asante Kotoko attempted cutting in from the wings but Samad Oppong and Edward Affum found Nzemaba and Maxwell Mensah a tall order.
With McCarthy exhibiting agility he lunged into the path of some scary balls to tidy his post, and it was apparent that Kotoko were in for another defeat to their archrivals.
And when Stephen Manu hammered an unstoppable shot away inside stoppage time, it was all clear that the die was cast for Kotoko.