Salifu’s Brilliance Could Spark Boadu’s Hearts Renaissance
“Obeng Jnr puts Hearts ahead with a simple tap from close range,” reported whoever was responsible for updating Accra Hearts of Oak’s official Facebook page with live commentary on Sunday’s Ghana Premier League game against Kumasi King Faisal.
It was a pretty accurate description of Hearts’ opening goal, which went in nearly an hour after kick-off, as it didn’t require too much imagination of the scorer — Kojo Obeng Jnr — to get the ball over the line from a can’t-afford-to-miss position.
Still, it was too much of a summary, not doing enough justice to the delightful movements that made the goal truly wonderful, and that piece of commentary certainly didn’t flatter one of the goal’s architects as much as it should have.
U-20 Afcon winner Daniel Afriyie Barnie started it all and would get credited with the actual assist, but the piece of play that transformed it all into such a spectacle came from another Hearts player, Salifu Ibrahim.
His perfectly weighted dink linked Barnie’s two key involvements, erasing a Faisal defence that was determined not to crumble as it often has this season.
Ibrahim would sink another dagger into Faisal’s heart, twisting and turning it as the clock wound down, when he ran onto skipper Fatawu Mohammed’s through-ball, cleverly evaded the offside trap, and set Barnie up for Hearts’ second.
It’s just the much-needed layer of creativity that Ibrahim, recruited from Techiman Eleven Wonders during the mid-season window, was expected to bring to the team. He did that so well for his former club, after all, the reason for which Hearts splashed so much cash and held off serious competition in pursuit of his services.
Now, it’s never a given that players will excel immediately after moving to a new club, especially if that club is bigger than their last, and that has proven true of Ibrahim. His first two appearances were cameos against WAFA and Aduana Stars, and, though not at his devastating best, the early signs were encouraging.
In subsequent games — versus Ashanti Gold, Inter Allies, and Karela United — he was handed starting berths. Hearts may have won only one of those, but Ibrahim acquitted himself well. It was against Faisal, though, that the forward put up his best performance yet in a Hearts shirt.
Ibrahim continued to wow the fans, treating them to a show definitely worth returning to the terraces for (after being kept out for a considerable while by the COVID-19 pandemic) with his deft touches and intricate passing range.
He even came quite close to scoring, clipping the bar from a freekick, and deservedly won his first Man of the Match prize as a Phobian — a sixth overall, the most of any player this season.
Head coach Samuel Boadu would draw much relief and joy from Ibrahim’s display. The numbers, since he took charge two months ago, haven’t been bad, with Hearts taking four wins from seven. A glance at the league table, though, doesn’t exactly suggest that Hearts have made any significant progress under Boadu: they’re still fourth, as they were when he arrived.
Boadu was brought in to take Hearts to the next level, and he desperately needs a spark. In Ibrahim — the man alongside whom he was unveiled in March — Boadu may just have found one.