05 Aug

PREVIEW: ASANTE KOTOKO VRS HEARTS OF OAK- Kotoko returns to the field against Hearts after gory accident

The usual euphoria that surrounded games between Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak during the late nineties and the early millennium had vanished to thin air even before 2010 where the anger and quality in both clubs were to be considered when previewing the most prestigious and biggest game in the Ghanaian football calendar.
Of recent late and over the last decade, Sunday's clash between Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium has been the best "pre Kotoko and Hearts" in terms of aura backing the game.
Reasons, primarily because of the incident that happened to Kumasi Asante Kotoko which saw the death of their deputy equipment officer, Thomas Obeng Asare upon returning to Kumasi after losing to Inter Allies in Accra on match-day twenty-two where they lost by a goal to nil.
As to whether that has been the reason to this burning euphoria before the game on Sunday is for discussion on another day but with that, it has tremendously lifted the enthusiasm and lost image of the game and it will be good for the game proper. Games between Kotoko and Hearts are always memorable when it is preceded with this kind of aura.
To add more spice to the game for it to taste exactly to its importance for both teams and the Ghanaian football calendar, even at the funeral service of the late Thomas Obeng Asare where all were mourning the death of the hardworking Kotoko aficianado, hungry fans of both sides were displaying photos and actions that depicted the eagerness and readiness towards the game and it will be disappointing should this game not live up to expectation.
Nothing, for now, shows that the game will be a disappointing one until Sunday as both teams are preparing fervently for this clash even more from the camp of Kumasi Asante Kotoko to see to it that the team is in shape and ready for the all anticipated clash. It will be no excuse, as Kumasi Asante Kotoko have acquiensence, to channel any loss of the game to the misfortune that happened to the team at Nkawkaw three weeks ago and so are keeping their gears and arsenals well lubricated to face Accra Hearts of Oak.
One other thing that will take center stage on Sunday on the part of Kumasi Asante Kotoko will be that game they lost to Accra Hearts of Oak in the first round league in Accra after that controversial penalty was awarded which decided the game, and will be ready to make amends by appeasing their teeming supporters with a fine game at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium.
Many have questioned why Kumasi Asante Kotoko refused to honour their FA Cup game against Nea Salamina which would have been a better preparatory ground entering this game against Hearts of Oak but they did had the chance to play a warm-up game on Wednesday against a division two side which they won by 4-1.
Much inference cannot be drawn from how Kumasi Asante Kotoko approached the game against Nat Costa FC even though it is believed the former needs another friendly game to keep them sharp and fit to play Hearts on Sunday as they looked rusty and somnolent against the young second-tier side. Games between Kotoko and Hearts go at length to easily draw conclusion on the result of a friendly game prior to Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak games.
For the first time in so many years, both Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak are presenting an equally strong squad at all department which will make it very difficult to pre-empt what will entail before the end of the game.
Going by the league log, performance and consistency thus far in the league, Accra Hearts of Oak should have a better of Kumasi Asante Kotoko on Sunday but it would not come that easy with their head coach Steve Polack likely to return to the bench.
However, current form and performance of a team between these clubs do not count, especially of recent late, which gives Kotoko less room to ponder on how to beat Hearts of Oak.
Histories and records are always given out before these kind of games but it reflects little or none on the day of the game. That said, it rings a bell of melodious advantage to Hearts of Oak playing in Kumasi trekking down after the renovation of the stadium in 2008 with Kotoko winning only two and Hearts winning four, four resulting in a stalemate.
Kumasi Asante Kotoko will only miss the service of Evans Quao due to the red card he received in their game against Inter Allies and Michael Akuffo and Ollenu Ashittey who have not recovered from that tragic incident that occured to the club some weeks ago. All of the squad should be ready for selection when called upon including Emmanuel Gyamfi who had a bruised at the Black Stars B camp in Elmina.
Accra Hearts of Oak will also not have much problems with the players they will be coming to Kumasi with as all are intact with deadly trio, Patrick Razak, Thomas Abbey and Winful Cobbinah available.
The latter missed their last game in Kumasi when they honoured the President Cup whilst he was on International assignment with the Black Stars in America.
Statistically, Kumasi Asante Kotoko are not good playing Accra Hearts of Oak at home in their fivety games played as they have lost nineteen times and have won only seventeen with fourteen ending in a draw game.
Coming from that point, Hearts of Oak has tagged the Baba Yara Sports Stadium as their home grounds whenever they are playing against Kumasi Asante Kotoko looking at their superior advantage to the home side. As to whether they will worsen the woes of Kotoko on Sunday knowing well of their predicament leaves much to anticipate for.
By: Lateef Abdul Sadick
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