Victor Turns Villain, Hearts Pay the Penalty & Boadu Gets a Reality Check
The darkest moment of the night, they say, is followed almost immediately by the break of a new dawn.
Thus far into the current Ghana Premier League season, fans of Accra Hearts of Oak can relate that dictum to the sort of campaign their team has had.
A little over two months ago, Kosta Papic resigned as head coach and a number of technical and management members walked away, too. All seemed doom and gloom at that point, as though Hearts were set to crumble into a familiar heap.
Management seemed lost, the fans were in despair, and the playing body had suffered deep chasms. For the umpteenth time, it looked like Hearts had pressed the self-destruct button again and their proclivity for halting their own progress had reared its head once more.
Rumours of former national star Laryea Kingston being appointed interim head coach died quicker than Inter Allies’ chances of winning this season’s league title, as youth coach Samuel Nii Noi was tasked, instead, to temporarily steady the ship.
And he did his job well, winning two games and holding archrivals Asante Kotoko to a draw. But the red carpet was already being rolled out for the arrival of a substantive manager — and a highly-rated one at that.
Boadu had a debut to savour, in Game-week 17, watching his team pummel WAFA 4-0. Even more remarkably, the football was crisp, the confidence palpable, and energy levels very evident.
The Phobians were buzzing, and they were still in that mood when reigning champions Aduana Stars visited about a month later.
Hearts’ performance wasn’t as swashbuckling this time, but the three points — secured by a penalty and an own goal — certainly compensated, given that they had not won against Aduana in a while.
It was a matter of pride, too, that the game yielded a fourth consecutive clean sheet, but that run was shattered in the next league outing, away to Ashanti Gold last Saturday.
Boadu’s charges started the game like they did the last two — spraying passes around with precision and dictating the pace — and it came as no surprise that winger Patrick Razak drew a foul in the 17th minute to win yet another penalty (who’s keeping count?).
Victor Aidoo, usually vicious and victorious for Hearts from twelve yards, picked the ball and stepped up for what should have been his fourth successful penalty conversion this season.
Ashgold goalkeeper Kofi Mensah saved the spot-kick, just as he did on the previous matchday when up against Karela United’s usually prolific Diawisie Taylor.
Aidoo was crestfallen, understandably, and so was his coach. And both, along with all Hearts fans, would have more reason to rue that missed opportunity when Ashgold’s Amos Addai converted a last-gasp penalty to inflict Hearts’ first defeat in six games and Boadu’s very first at the helm.
Romain Folz, on the Ashgold bench for the first time, bested Boadu tactically. After realising that Benjamin Afutu was at the heart of every good move Hearts made, the Frenchman made sure his players overworked and frustrated the midfielder.
Afutu was booked, eventually, and that clearly limited his influence as the game wore on. Hearts failed to create any clear-cut chances and Folz wasn’t wrong in insisting post-match that his team “deserved the win”.
It’s a claim that Boadu might struggle to dispute, but the 35-year-old would hope he has an easier time getting his team back on track after this stinging reality check.