ATTENTION! Accra Lions Deliver Statement of Intent with Hearts Win
As friendly matches came, this one had a lot riding on it.
Not that either club had reason to hold a grudge against the other — not with one aged almost 110 years and firmly established in the top-flight, while the other is barely six years old and only just sealed promotion to the Ghana Premier League.
Still, there was plenty of motivation for both sides to give it their all when Accra Hearts of Oak took on Accra Lions on Sunday at the stadium they share tenancy of in the Ghanaian capital.
For Hearts — the older, more accomplished club — the objective was to give their preparations for next weekend’s CAF Champions League opener against CI Kamsar the finishing touches. Their previous warm-up game, against Togolese side ASKO de Kara in Lome, ended in defeat, and this was a chance to tie up the loose ends.
For Lions, the target they’re warming up for feels more modest, but is still a pretty big deal to them: a first season at the summit of the Ghanaian club football pyramid. Hearts, as reputable and formidable an opponent as there is anywhere in the land right now, were just about the perfect test of the newcomers’ readiness.
And, with flying colours but not much ease, Lions passed it.
They went ahead, boldly, through Oliver Amedor, before Hearts’ Daniel Afriyie Barnie dragged the Phobians level. By the time the teams marched in for recess, Hearts were in front, courtesy of a lead delivered brilliantly by Isaac Mensah.
But then came the second half, defined by Lions’ collective roar to get back into the game and snatch what they could. Snapping at Hearts’ heels relentlessly, Rainer Kraft’s pride drew level through Shawkan Mohammed, a new signing unveiled not quite a week prior.
Lions smelled blood and sensed they could grab the spoils all for themselves, rather than settle for a share. And that’s just what they did at the death, through Rauf Salifu, their standout star last season and the overall top-scorer in the Division One League (DOL).
On the same pitch where they were crowned kings of one of the second-tier’s three zones only in July, Lions claimed their biggest scalp yet in the club’s young history — and they made sure that fact wasn’t lost on anyone.
“We beat the Ghanaian champions, Accra Hearts of Oak,” a tweet announcing the outcome proudly declared, in part.
That they did it against a Hearts team that was, save a man or two, at full strength — kitted out in training gear, yes, but what’s the difference? — was even more impressive, given Lions lined up with an XI that featured some fresh arrivals.
Not much should be read into the result, of course. Hearts’ narrow loss doesn’t mean they’ll fail in the upcoming continental assignment any more than Lions’ hard-fought victory means they’re going to upset the status quo in the Premier League season that kicks off late next month.
Still, if there is any meaningful satisfaction to be milked from this contest and how it ultimately panned out, one would imagine that Lions would take it all in.
They are, by the looks of it, all but ready for the big-time.