By: Napoleon Ato Kittoe (GBC)
Bravery in cliffhanger as bogey side Ashantigold of Obuasi played their hearts out to stir home fans of Accra Hearts of Oak to impatience and agitations. The phobian community lost the steam and slumped into silence as Ashgold proved unyielding to their big dream ambitions that might have underestimated the challenge and expected a walkover.
The Obuasi lads obviously had other ideas which were revealed on field of play as they held the pre-match favourites to their discomfort throughout the epic match.
Extent of hostilities which lasted 120 minutes with extra time witnessed only one clear chance in open play which fell to and was fluffed by Ashgold. The visitors did not relent but marauded Hearts territory in opportunistic raids.
In the eye of the storm, the ruffled backline of Hearts of Oak had to dig deep to contain the merchants of doom, intent on puncturing their recently acquired ego. The determined Ashgold playing to a well rehearsed strategy policed Hearts arrowhead and dangerman Afriyie Barnieh to the hilt, and the zero-zero scoreline at the end of proceedings awarded full marks to their bench.
The blunt on the attacker was credited to solid defending by Richard Osei Agyemang, Frank Akoto, Seth Osei, Ampim Dacosta and Goalkeeper Kofi Mensah who played above themselves to keep a clean score sheet.
Careful not to lose the trophy at stake, the match was approached cautiously by both Hearts and Ashgold with none at helm of the midfield action. No respect for each other as the rotund leather was kicked about, unimaginatively, sometimes recklessly by players just to be sure no side was conceding.
Inside extra time, a Hearts player fell in the 18 yard box of Ashgold. Referee David Laryea waved play on, much to the chagrin of anxious Hearts fans. A soft incident that could have triggered commotion had it counted.
Meanwhile, in the penalty shootout, Afriyie Barnieh almost threw spanners in the phobian project when he failed to convert the last kick which could have clinched the deal in the first five kicks. That interpreted as two lost kicks but Hearts stepped forward unblemished in the second round of the shootout, as the opponents failed to run with the momentum.
Hearts goalie Richard Atta made himself proud grabbing one of the penalty kicks and scoring the last of his side’s kicks. Hearts and Ashgold had carved enviable niches in the season with very little concessions by the former and a free scoring attitude of the latter.
Outcome of the FA cup grand finale is victory for the irremovable block over the irresistible force. Ashgold, then Obuasi Goldfields broke out from obscurity to mediocrity and finally to celebrity status in Ghana football becoming the third force to be sandwiched by Hearts and Kumasi Asante Kotoko, when it ended the league hegemony by the two.
followed exploits from the 1992 league season on the backs of big cash spending and successful hunt for cast in gold players like Sammy Adjei, Yaw Acheampong, Stephen Baidoo, kasola Dacosta, Augustine Arhinful, Afo Dodoo among others who provided the spine to the senior national soccer team the Black Stars at the time.
Since the period under review, Ashgold remains the only Ghanaian side to have climbed to African continental soccer summit with the stupendous feat that saw them to finals of the competition, but thwarted in the end by Raja Casablanca of Morocco.
Accra Hearts of Oak on the otherhand are big game contenders and one of the two glamorous in Ghana. The latest victory is the club’s sixth double. 1973, 1979, 1989/90, 1999, 2000 and 2021.
Preceding years in which Hearts playmakers such as John Nketsiah Yawson, Mohammed Ahmed Polo, Shamo Quaye and Charles Asampong Taylor conjured magics and single handedly decided matches.
In the 2021 episode, the formative Hearts of Oak still on rebuilding exercise, played to the strength of a single unit and the chants of vociferous fans awakened by unexpected feats after a long lull on the Phobian front.
Somehow, the huge Phobian crowd that had gathered behind television sets in populous Ga centres in Accra such as Ga Mashie, found the tonic to jubilate but after a long wait. A carnival ensued in most of the areas in Accra where Hearts draws their traditional following.
It was catatonic atmosphere to a nail biting finish before the penalty lottery decided the fate of the two clubs. Hard road indeed.