A late Naby Laye Keita penalty proved decisive as it handed Asante Kotoko a 2-1 away triumph over arch-rivals Hearts of Oak in the Ghana Premier League on Sunday.
After Joseph Esso drew the hosts level following Justice Blay’s opener for the Porcupine Warriors, the Guinean striker’s effort emerged as the separating factor as it won his side all three points in the matchday six tie at the Accra Sports Stadium.
The result has taken Kotoko to fourth on the league table as Hearts occupy the 12th position. They two teams are the biggest clubs in Ghana, boasting a combined 42 league titles between them.
The biggest story in the team news came from the quarters of Kotoko where club captain and No.1 goalkeeper Felix Annan was relegated to the bench in favour of Kwame Baah.
Hearts coach Edward Nii Odoom, meanwhile, made one change to his line-up, replacing injured striker Kojo Obeng Junior with Daniel Afriyie.
The hosts started the game the stronger of the two sides but interestingly, it was the visitors who would take an early lead.
In the 11th minute, Kotoko midfielder Blay silenced the home crowd, jumping above centre-back Robert Addo to head home an Augustine Okrah free-kick.
After Benjamin Afutu drove a shot from distance over the bar in Hearts’ search for a prompt equaliser, Kotoko’s Salifu Mudasiru unleashed a shot from outside the box at the other end after a good run in the 22nd minute.
Kofi Kordzi had a chance to draw the Phobians level in the 26th minute but his header went wide after he connected to a neat Raddy Ovouka cross from the left.
There was bad news for Kotoko on 29 minutes as they were forced into an early substitution following an injury to Mudasiru. Collins Ameyaw was thrown into the game by coach Maxwell Konadu.
Two minutes to half-time, Hearts captain Mohammed Fatawu did well to recover a dangerous ball from Kotoko’s Emmanuel Gyamfi who had gone one-on-one with goalkeeper Richard Atta.
After the break, Kordzi and Afriyie produced early unsuccessful efforts for an equaliser.
But there would soon be a reward for Hearts’ early second-half pressure. On 64 minutes, Esso headed a rebound into the net to restore parity after a corner routine produced a loose ball in the box.
In the 75th minute, Kotoko were forced into another unplanned substitution as Kwame Adom Frimpong could not recover from a head collision with Esso. Richard Arthur was introduced into the game while Hearts also had to replace Esso with Bernard Arthur.
The visitors almost took the lead again in the 76th minute when substitute Matthew Cudjoe beat his marker and delivered a cross into the box. Hearts goalkeeper Atta had to produce a spectacular tip-over to deny Gyamfi from scoring a header.
As things looked headed for a draw, Kotoko were awarded a penalty in the 89th minute when the referee adjudged Hearts centre-back Mohammed Alhassan to have handled in the box.
Guinean striker Keita stepped up andexpertly sent Atta the wrong way to make it 2-1 to the visitors.
Hearts tried to mount a late challenge but their efforts proved inadequate as the Porcupine Warriors held on to claim a valuable 2-1 away win.
A goal.com report