Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Accra Hearts of Oak-Asante Kotoko

Not wholly passed my new years hangover, I went to watch the 1st leg of the Final of the African Confederations Cup, on January 2nd. First time ever two teams of the same country, namely Ghana, face one another in this prestigious tournament.
Hearts of Oak, the home team from Accra for the first leg, boasts a young and talented side, while Asante Kotoko, from the city of Kumasi, has an experienced side, which are currently defending champions of Ghana.
Since these teams are by far the two main teams in the country, they have a very strong rivalry that before has led to violence, so a lot of police and military was out for this game.

It was a burning hot Sunday afternoon, and I was surprised to see the quick pace which Hearts of Oak started with. In spite of some shaky flanks, Asante Kotoko's defense was very strong, centered around their captain Joe Hendricks. But the strikers of Hearts were at the same time not looking too good, and as the game progressed, Kotoko got more and more into the match.
The best player of the match was a small offensive midfielder in Kotoko, Stephen Oduro. Small in size, but with excellent technique, speed and physical stubborness he completely dominated the midfield. After one hour, it was also a strong run from him, which gave Kotoko a free kick outside the area. Although a good kick by former-Hearts player Charles Taylor, the keeper should have had it. Instead, he dropped the ball right on the feet of Michael Osei, who scored without problem.
After this, the experience of Kotoko shined through, while the inexperience of Hearts
became obvious, as the home-crowd grew more and more impatient. It seemed Kotoko's substitutions were excellent, while Hearts coach was waiting way too long before changing anything on a team that was looking more and more disillusioned.
The game went into 4 minutes injury time. In the last second of the injury time, a somewhat weak shot from outside, by young Hearts striker Louis Agyemang, equalized the match. A shame for Kotoko's goalkeeper, George Owu, who had otherwise played an excellent match.
Kotoko was understandably disappointed, having lost victory in the dying seconds. However, next Sunday they will have a fanatic crowd behind them, as they host the young Hearts team in Kumasi. I would put my money on Kotoko.

A jubilant Michael Osei after scoring

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