Hearts of Oak stuns Asante Kotoko to win 2023 Presidential Cup as Rainbow club turns into title winning side

Hearts of Oak beat Asante Kotoko 1-0 to win the 2023 Presidential Cup in Accra. Lone goal from center-back Konadu Yiadom was enough to see Hearts lift the President’s Cup twice in a row after defeating the same opponents 2-1 last season as Phobia gradually turning into title winning side. 

The intensity and aggression with which the game started was great, and raising a question why these Ghanaian clubs have not integrated well in Africa if this level had been maintained.

An intensity that didn’t give anyone advantage as both clubs created and reacted to the level of intensity so well. At the very begin, Mukwala was put through on goal but smashed it narrowly missing the right target before Hearts of Oak broke in reverse attack however Ibrahim Danlad was the man to save Kotoko from going down.

There was much to battle for in midfield where almost most of each team’s operations was engineered. But Asante Kotoko were a bit on top of their game in that sensitive area, limiting Hearts’ attacks while managing to break on attack, and a typical moment saw George Mfegue nearly opened the scoring after Enoch Morrison lofted a pass over but the nature of the delivery wasn’t perfect for the Cameroonian forward to finish as Ayi came to interfere. The scenario looked like and was called for a penalty by Kotoko fans inside the Stadium.

The taking on end-to-end action form from start of the game will only continued throughout almost the first half despite high pressing and tackles that its impact should have amounted to reduced intensity. At this juncture, Hearts were more threatening especially in the final third.

The likeliest side to have go ahead was Hearts of Oak and they got their noses in front after Benjamin York broke the deadlock from a corner but it was ruled offside after back-liner Sherif Mohammed caused the Hearts attack led by York to unbeat the offside trap.

Kotoko took control of the game started creating free chances with Richmond Lamptey and Morrison threatening the opposing goal area from long drives. Morrison beat an obstacle at the right edge with his master cut-in play and fired from behind the box but missed the upper net narrowly.

The Porcupine Warriors’ consistency in whatever they were doing continued to force Hearts of Oak to succumb. The home side had discovered something about their opponents- something strange and special of aggression with excellent recoveries, and the end-to-end action will only see their down fall and decided to allow Kotoko to play while they sit and counter.

But this approach will even allow Kotoko to even create more chances than before. Lamptey and particularly Mukwala could now enter Hearts box easily, and the two combined inside the box with Lamptey turning two Hearts defenders to feed Mukwala who struck with his weaker left foot as the ball went straight into Ayi’s arms. That move was even called offside.

The blast of whistle for end of first half may have undoubtedly relieved Hearts of Oak. I personally don’t know what transpired in Hearts dressing room, beginning the second half strongly winning a corner kick right away but Kotoko cleared the lines.

Mfegue was fouled at the left side but Augustine Agypong’s delivery went into Ayi’s arms. Hearts had opened up their defense to pour forward but with caution. This move has in a way distorted Kotoko game with the Reds struggling to keep possession.

Hearts looked beneficiary of the long balls and continual stoppages nature of the game and went in front from the set piece after Mtange free kick was latched onto by Konadu Yiadom. A couple of Hearts players had beat the defense line with Yiadom in particular heading it beyond Danlad to give the home side the lead.

Kotoko began to come forward for the equalizer but not in their nice transition manner, this time from direct and long balls. Mukalwa and Lamptey on occasions couldn’t keep composure in attempt to find back of the net as efforts went over the cross bar.

Morrison made way for Clinton Opoku and the youngster in his first touch attempted to feed Mukwala in the box but his delivery from the right flank was cleared by Konadu Yiadom. Yiadom has scored his second goal of the season.

Kotoko may have entrapped and beaten to by Hearts’ early second half approach that refused the Reds of keeping the ball. Kotoko wanted to go back for their dominating approach defined as keeping the ball on the turf and swinging passes together and a resultant showed glimpses of that after Lamptey played Mukwala through on goal who kept his composure; his effort was timed and blocked by Yiadom.

Hearts got menial chances to increase the lead but failed in several moments. They could have been punished for that with most of Kotoko’s reversed attack initiated by Richard Boadu, Lamptey and Mo Sherif fouled in the processes but the referee overlooked those incidence. From popular judgment, the referee was unfair not to award fouls to the visitors and issue out the yellow card.

Mukwala nearly equalized for Kotoko after his header from Agypong’s cross hit the woodwork. The stoppage time of the game gave similarity of the early proceedings. The high tempo and reversed chances as Obeng Jr. blasted it over the bar after a nice Hearts move has resulted them in the box.

Mukwala run from the right side to enter into the box but decent challenge from Hearts defender saw the Ugandan went down so easily to get a penalty and despite such claim by the away fans the referee overlooked the incident.

That would have been a mess if pointed to the penalty spot as Hearts end the day 1-0 up over their rivals. Hearts have now tied in point buildup with Asante Kotoko, 31 each.

Over the last four seasons, Hearts have won the Ghana Premier League, 2 FA Cup title and 2 Presidential Cup and the interval of these achievements make them the best title winning side in Ghana now.

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