Hearts win but cracks persist on large scale

By Michael Oti Adjei
The debate is still raging on: On Monday morning, Kumasi Asante Kotoko fans were still speaking in disappointed tone after losing what is generally regarded as Ghana’s version of the El-Classico. Hearts fans meanwhile are revelling in it.

A 1-0 win for Hearts of Oak lifted the early pressure on Frank Nuttal’s side, propelling them from 11th on the league table to 6th.

It was Hearts of Oak’s first win over Asante Kotoko in eight years and as is often the case with games between the two sides, one strewn with controversy.

Replays suggest referee Samuel Sukah erred in awarding the penalty after Ahmed Adams attempted to block a Sam Yeboah effort inside the box.

The Hearts players were convinced it had hit his hand and Sukah obliged, pointing to the spot on 82 minutes. Vincent Atingah stepped up to hit it straight down the middle as Felix Annan dived to his left.

The Hearts broke into their famous Arose, Arose, Arose chants. The Kotoko fans were enraged and at the final whistle, pelted the match officials with water bottles and sachets as they made their way into the dressing room amid heavy security.

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Kotoko’s assistant coach Godwin Ablordey was so incensed with the decision he argued referees were taking the game backwards. Now many Kotoko fans want the referee banned.

Hearts fans have responded to Kotoko’s anger with claims that the Porcupine Warriors have benefitted immensely from controversial refereeing calls this season and have circulated a dubious penalty against Bechem United to back their case.

It is all in the spirit of a contest that has dominated Ghana football but in many ways, the real issue would not have been the bad referee calls which is keeping with the spirit of the contest.

It would have been in further signals it provided about the relevance or otherwise of the fixture in Ghana football and what is says about the quality of domestic players overall.

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There was the usual decent crowd at the Accra Sports Stadium including many women and kids but nothing like the numbers that have traditionally filled the stadiums for games between the two traditional giants.

The many empty seats would only have confirmed the fears of many that this fixture is falling below the pecking order in terms of priority for the Ghanaian football fan.

Then there was the football itself. Faulty passes, poor technical quality, huff and puff often and just standard of play that belied the status of the fixture.

It is true these are not necessarily the two best clubs in Ghana at the moment; Aduana Stars have ensured we will not be able to say that for a while.

But there are the marquee ones, the two who are supposed to symbolise the good and the great over the 90 minutes, the football on offer did not match up to that.

Former Hearts of Oak coach J.E Sarpong said the game had effectively belittled the status of the two clubs in Ghana football. “The game just didn’t match the quality of a Hearts-Kotoko game. The standard was just not good.”

There were many fans singing a similar tune but Hearts won’t mind. They ended an eight year winless run against their sworn enemy and halted a slide down the table.

For now all the talk of poor standards including the officiating will be secondary to them.

Kotoko will moan about this for weeks and with some justification. Their season has looked almost perfect, blighted only by two draws before Sunday’s crunch encounter.

Victory would have taken them three points clear of Aduana Stars who lost for the first time this season at Ebusua Dwarfs.

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