By Anwar Umar Larry
The best sporting spectacle in Ghana football is to live and see 90 minutes of football between Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak.
Today, all eyes lead to Kumasi, the fortress of the Porcupine Warriors, as the two biggest clubs in Ghana meet in round one of the domestic top flight. About 40,000 spectators are expected at the Baba Yara Stadium with over 15 million TV viewers nationwide.
The two most successful teams in Ghana have locked horns in 96 league games - 32 wins for Asante Kotoko and 32 victories for Hearts of Oak. The remaining are entertaining draws. Goal.com Ghana takes a look at six of the best Kotoko and Hearts games in the last fives years.
KOTOKO 2-1 HEARTS (April 15, 2012)
In only his third game as Hearts of Oak coach, CK Akunnor sent his troops to ruin Kotoko’s party. Kotoko’s Maxwell Konadu had a master-plan. Kofi Nti Boakye headed in the first goal which left the visitors shell-shocked and the Fabulous supporters ecstatic. Laryea Kingston, back from his European odyssey, the cynosure and leader of Akunnor’s revived Hearts was sent off in the first minute of the second half. Akunnor, a goal and a man down, brought on another striker to chase the game. They got an equaliser from a Mahatma Otoo thunderous free-kick with only a minute to spare. The headlines had changed - 10-man Hearts spoil the party. No. Kotoko wouldn’t settle for a draw, and straight from restart took the lead, again, via a thunderbolt of a strike from midfield sensation Michael Akuffo to win the game in stoppage time. A well deserved victory - the icing on the cake of the league champions - and a shattering of Hearts’ seven years unbeaten streak in the league against Kotoko in Kumasi.
PHOBIA | Will the God of Hearts answer their prayers at the Baba Yara Stadium today?
KOTOKO 1-2 HEARTS (February 8, 2009)
The two rivals had won their previous encounters before the rivalry. Hearts had beaten King Faisal 2-1 at Accra; the Porcupine Warriors had silenced the Pride of the North, RTU, by 3-0. Sabahn Quaye, the Hearts team manager, had promised victory before the ball was even kicked. What did he know? Hearts were very dominant and took a deserved lead in the first half through defender Hassan Mohammed. After recess, Obed Ansah increased the tally, but Stephen Oduro –once upon a time Hearts tormentor - who had hitherto been warming up on the sideline, got Kotoko’s consolation minutes after coming on. Hearts had waited for 10 years for a league victory in Kumasi, and here they had it on a plate, with a 21-gold carat performance and rued chances by the composure-less Samuel Affum.
KOTOKO 3-3 HEARTS (May 24, 2008)
Coach Bashiru Hayford’s all conquering team and champions-elect spearheaded by the free-scoring Eric Bekoe had come up against a very diffident Hearts team. Murmurs of 6-0 had serenaded the Garden City before kick-off. The boys in red had promised their fans it was time to avenge the 4-0 mortification suffered at the hands of the “64 battalion”. When Kojo Poku opened the scoring in less than a quarter past the first half, the dream had seemed possible, the revenge mission was back on, and the delighted Fabulous fans urged the team forward. Forward they kept pouring till Bernard Dong Bortey – master of the Kotoko-Hearts game – silenced the home crowd with the Phobians’ equaliser. Kotoko had lost their way, the panache exhibited in the early minutes had dissipated the Reds and to compound their ephemeral misery, Ekow Ghansah shot Hearts ahead when Kotoko pushed men forward. Eric Bekoe made it 2-2. Kotoko still celebrating after the goal were shot down again when Francis Bossman’s well-struck free-kick beat the motionless Soulema Abubakar to make it 3-2. Oduro once again made it 3-3 with a strike on the edge of the penalty box seven minutes into the second half making it six goals in less than 60 minutes.
GOAL POACHER | Eric Bekoe, now with Berekum Chelsea, once led the goal scorer's chart
HEARTS 0-1 KOTOKO (June 14, 2009)
Hearts had earlier in the season broken a 10-year jinx in Kumasi when they won comfortably against the Porcupine Warriors. Kotoko had gone close to 17 years without victory in Accra. The match began with either side cautious resulting in a dull but colorful first half. The fear of that painful defeat had inhibited Kotoko; the pride of that win had made Hearts complacent. With less than 20 minutes to go, captain Hassan Mohammed became the villain of the game when he gave away a needless free-kick close to the 18-yard box. Harrison Afful picked out Francis Coffie’s head in the crowd.
HEARTS 0-2 KOTOKO (March 20, 2010)
The fans were queuing for tickets. The match had begun. There were struggles at the gates. Suddenly, bellows of goal, goal, and goooooooal filled the atmosphere. Who had scored? Hearts, of course. No, Kotoko. What? A few Hearts fans jubilated, so did a thousand Kotoko fans inside the stadium. Ahmed Toure had drawn the first blood - Kotoko were a goal up. Fans were still struggling to make it into the Ohene-Djan Stadium. Another deafening shout came through – a goal had been scored. By the time a few of the Hearts fans had seated, the match was effectively over. Kotoko’s supremacy was way too clear. A big match had become a mismatch. The Reds carried the day and all the three points. They got the bragging rights.
HEARTS 3-1 KOTOKO (January 7, 2007)
The Kumasi and Accra Sports stadium were under rehabilitation in preparation for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations so this game took place at the Robert Mensah Stadium. The glamour and rivalry had shifted to Ghana’s birthplace of football, Cape Coast. Hearts had gifted their fans the perfect Christmas present when they beat Kotoko away from home a fortnight ago 0-1 at that same venue. It was time for Kotoko to mollify their fans with a New Year present. Eric Gawu and Dong Bortey scored to give Hearts a 2-0 lead in the first half. Obeng Darko reduced the deficit after the break, but Alfred Nii Larbie restored the two-goal cushion and the final nail in the Kotoko coffin. Hearts had done the double over their rivals.
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