For a club involved in a title race that is only just heating up, many would have found it a tad surprising that Accra Hearts of Oak’s starting XI for Wednesday’s FA Cup Round of 64 date with Liberty Professionals was, to a man, the same side that beat Berekum Chelsea in the Ghana Premier League just four days prior.
Cup ties, generally, present coaches with an opportunity to rest regular players and give those on the periphery some minutes, but even the bench picked by Hearts head coach Samuel Boadu looked largely familiar: Abdul Manaf Umar, Patrick Razak, Larry Sumaila and Caleb Amankwah were all among the substitutes for the game against Chelsea.
It didn’t matter that Liberty, also a top-flight side, rested all but one of the starters who helped secure a priceless victory over Dreams FC in their latest Premier League game. There was, of course, no way that Boadu could have second-guessed opposite number Sellas Tetteh’s moves, but even such foreknowledge probably wouldn’t have altered the former Medeama trainer’s matchday squad much.
The FA Cup holds a special place in Hearts’ history and trophy cabinet. They’ve won it more than any other club, after all, and it’s in that competition that they last came close to refreshing their collection of major silverware.
That was in 2017, in the most recent completed edition, when Hearts reached the final but suffered a chastening defeat to archrivals Asante Kotoko. After having gone so long — a decade and counting — without winning anything of significance, Hearts certainly can’t afford to be choosy and would, reasonably, want to go all in for either the league title or the Cup.
Scratch that: they’re likely aiming for both, a first domestic Double since 2000, which is probably one reason why Boadu went full-strength against Liberty.
Another reason would have been Boadu’s desire to sustain and improve the momentum built up in the last few games.
“The win would motivate the boys going into Sunday’s game against Great Olympics so that we can pick all the three points to add to our tally on the league table,” he said post-match.
Defeating Liberty 3-0 stretches Hearts’ current winning run to six games — 11 goals scored and none conceded — in all competitions, and potentially hands them a psychological edge over their challengers in the league title run-in.