Bechem United’s trip to Accra last week — a journey that likely lasted no less than seven hours, across the boundaries of four regions — wasn’t an easy one.
It must have been draining, truly, but the Hunters were certainly not drained of the pride of cruising into the capital as the ongoing Ghana Premier League season’s only unbeaten side.
They’d won all three home games, but Bechem had also been impressive on the road, coming away with five points from nine. Four of those had been picked in Accra, where they held Liberty Professionals on the opening matchday and defeated Inter Allies a few weeks later.
Those results — together with another draw with Aduana Stars in the latter’s formidable Dormaa-Ahenkro fortress — had Bechem top of the table when they turned up for their Week 7 date with Accra Hearts of Oak last Saturday.
By half-time, the game was barren, and in a league campaign that has already served up one stalemate too many, it looked like this would be another. Few could have imagined what would happen after recess; and when it did happen, even fewer — with only a handful of fans in the terraces, and sole broadcaster StarTimes unable to transmit the second half due to some challenges — saw it live.
Eight minutes in, Hearts took the lead, courtesy youth team graduate Abdul Manaf Umar. Even at that point, however, the game still was delicately balanced; Bechem, for reasons already highlighted, seemed genuinely capable of a result that could sustain their perfect run.
But Hearts, with sheer ruthlessness and emphasis, snuffed out any hopes of a comeback. Their lead was doubled through Victor Aidoo, before being tripled five minutes later by the same player.
It was as much a case of Bechem being thoroughly outdone, for once this term, as it probably was the fact that the numerical advantage Hearts had enjoyed since the first half — which Bechem had bravely weathered after going a man down — was finally telling.
Yet, the story was only half-told even at that advanced stage of the game, as the home straight was set alight by more goals than the preceding eighty-something minutes had yielded.
The hosts converted a penalty to make it 4-0, before Bechem scraped one back from the depths of certain defeat, only for two more Hearts goals — from Mamane Lawali and Benjamin Afutu — to further depreciate the consolatory value of the vanquished side’s solitary strike.
The goal glut was defining for both teams: Bechem had conceded twice the number they had in their previous six games, while Hearts almost doubled the total they had scored in their own preceding run of fixtures.
For Bechem, the journey back to their Ahafo Region base would feel even longer, but Hearts would bask in the rays of triumph by a margin they hadn’t enjoyed in a while; the post-match scenes — as the Phobians high-fived, bumped fists, hugged, and soaked in cheers from the few supporters present — summed up what this meant to them.
How deeply, though, should one read into this rather rare Hearts win?
Should it, given the quality of opposition on the day, be dismissed as a freak result?
Well, only if considered in isolation.
The wider context of Hearts’ fortunes since Serbian Kosta Papic returned four matchdays ago for a second stint as head coach, though, suggests this could mean much more: a resounding declaration about a return to form of a club that, despite its fabled greatness, hasn’t won major silverware since the year Papic’s first spell ended.
Now, of course, all that guarantees little, but it promises plenty. A team that has quickly gone from not winning any of its first three league games to winning three of the next four certainly deserves attention; one that scores six goals against a high-flying opponent — and 11 in the aforementioned four games — does inspire belief.
And right now, Hearts command both, if nothing else.