Against Kotoko, Hearts Were as Underwhelming as They’ve Been All Season
Samuel Boadu was right.
Accra Hearts of Oak’s best game in this season’s Ghana Premier League (GPL) certainly didn’t come against archrivals Asante Kotoko in Sunday’s 0-0 draw.
He was wrong, however, in claiming that said superlative performance came in their season-opening meeting with Legon Cities.
The latter match may have seen Hearts pose more of a goal threat than in the former — with an inspired Eric Ofori Antwi, in goal for Cities, the big reason why that encounter ended scoreless — but, examined microscopically, there was precious little to choose between the two games.
If, indeed, you’re wondering just how last season’s champions are now no higher than seventh on the table, 12 points off the pace, the duel with Kotoko spelt it all out. It was, if you like, a vignette of all that’s been good and bad about this term’s version of Hearts.
They defended well — only one team has conceded fewer goals thus far, after all — and kept at bay, save a close shave or two, the league’s second-best attack.
Farther upfield, a midfield that is still shaping up had its moments yet couldn’t sustain game-long dominance; again, no surprise there.
But it was upfront, where Hearts have been at their worst, that the team’s deficiencies were exposed in startling detail. Hearts showed the greater attacking intent in, say, the opening quarter of an hour, only to be let down by characteristic poor decision-making.
What if Gladson Awako, shortly after kickoff, had put the better-placed Daniel Afriyie Barnieh through, instead of rashly shooting from an unfavourable angle?
What if Sulley Muntari, in the 10th minute, had not opted for the spectacular when a simpler approach might have sufficed?
And what if — most glaringly — Kwadwo Obeng Jnr. hadn’t struck the ball against the woodwork, when he had all of the goal, either side of Kotoko goalkeeper Ibrahim Danlad, to aim at?
In a game of few chances, Hearts could have won by one goal… or two… or even three. Instead, they finished with none, with goalkeeper Richard Attah especially to thank for ensuring Hearts themselves didn’t let in any.
And that, in a snapshot, has been the story of Hearts’ season.
The only real boost Boadu can take from this game is of a psychological sort — along with the extra points scored in his post-match exchanges with Dr. Prosper Narteh Ogum, his opposite number, that would bring quite a few disillusioned Hearts fans onside — but the output itself was hardly encouraging.
An indisputable highlight was the sterling display — a man-of-the-match shift, really — of freshly-minted Phobian Dennis Nkrumah-Korsah at left-back.
The presence of the former Ebusua Dwarfs skipper will certainly shore up an already formidable backline, but Korsah’s marauding runs and pinpoint crosses should add some more bite to the attack.
All those openings, though, would have to be maximised by someone — someone cast in the mould of a target-man — with the imposing Kofi Kordzi standing out as the sharpest tool in the box.
It’s a tad surprising that Kordzi, months into his second spell with Hearts still appears to be auditioning for a role that, at least by virtue of his rank as this team’s leading scorer, should already be his.
Kordzi, a mass of muscle and of goals (seven in the league, this season), could have offered a more productive outlet versus Kotoko. Instead, he was only brought on for the last 20-odd minutes, at a point when the game was losing its sting.
Whether or not he chooses to turn to Kordzi more regularly for answers to Hearts’ scoring challenge, the job is Boadu’s to come up with a formula that would get his team’s juices flowing once more.
With only 17 more games — the first of which is due next weekend against, well, Legon Cities — to make less of an embarrassment of their season, he’d have to be quick about it.