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Hearts of Oak

Super Clash: Can recent reinforcements make any difference?

13:49 GMT+3 17/03/2017
Kotoko Hearts of Oak
With the biggest match of Ghana’s league calendar about to hold, Goal assesses the possible impact of recent new additions to Hearts and Kotoko

It has always been the most-anticipated game of the season. Years pass by, seasons pass on but the Super Clash is always the Super Clash. And as Hearts of Oak face Asante Kotoko in the Ghana Premier League on Sunday, excitements, you can imagine, are swelling in awaiting of a sacred 90 minutes.

Expectedly, predictions of who wins the day have begun, arguments keep lighting up here and there, and fake prophets, the game being so generous, have been thrown one last chance to salvage their reputations if any.

The Ghana topflight is a competition of 16 teams, but it may not be totally off to say that each of the two sides has the other in mind in any activity whatsoever. Quite a lot of reinforcements have been made by both teams lately. But will these augmenters make any difference in Sunday’s big clash?

The biggest players on the day, perhaps, will be the two coaches, and their status aptly fits the topic. Hearts’ Frank Nuttall only joined the club last month, and with his wealth of experience, he will surely have a big role to play on whether ‘Chapter O’ leaves the Accra Sports Stadium with a pitiful elegy or an electrifying paean.

Having previously managed Kenyan giants Gor Mahia and Egyptian heavyweights Zamalek, as assistant coach, Nuttall should face the big occasion with guts and aplomb. The Super Clash may have come too soon, but will he leverage the big occasion to announce his arrival?

Kotoko’s  Zdravko Lugarusic is new to his role as well, even if he took up his job a month earlier. Interestingly, the Croat also once handled Gor Mahia, although he did not win two titles as did Nuttall.

That said, Lugarusic cannot be underestimated. The 52-year-old’s knowledge of the Ghanaian game is as priceless, having managed Ashanti Gold and King Faisal. He certainly did come up against Hearts during his earlier days, and it should be easy to point who among the two coaches will walk into Sunday’s game with a better composure and confidence.  

But it wouldn’t all be about the men in the dugouts.

Hearts are without midfielder Mustapha Essuman, but their acquisition of Malik Akowuah almost, if not aptly, makes up for the loss. The latter was undoubtedly the star-man as Medeama reached the group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup last season, his exploits catching the eye of the likes of TP Mazembe and Mamelodi Sundowns. He’s the man for the big games, and could ridiculously turn Sunday’s game into a personal exhibition.  

Bright Luqman was definitely among the most exciting players last season, but only then on the books of Ebusua Dwarfs. New goalkeeper Ben Mensah has so far been the trusted man between the sticks of the Phobians, even if he farcically betrayed that trust with a gift of a goal toWa all Stars on matchday four. And Anthony Nimo and Joshua Otoo cannot be forgotten.

Kotoko have some new men too, even if replacing the revelation of last season’s Super Clash and new Anderlecht recruit Dauda Mohammed may, perhaps, be too much to ask of any.

Yakubu Mohammed, who signed from Ashanti Gold, has proven to be a real coup, having notched four goals thus far. That Kwame Boahene and Abass Mohammed played instrumental roles in Medeama’s Caf Confederation Cup campaign speaks volume of their capabilities. Awudu Nafiu, Baba Mahama and the returning duo of Michael Akuffo and Awal Mohammed have also seen it all on the local scene.

The curious case of Ollenu Ashitey is of special interest, considering that he was on the books of Hearts last season – absurd.

Fair to say the battle line has been drawn. The chronic fever of a Super Clash has certainly caught up with many, and for these ‘new boys’, it’s definitely the chance to make a statement.