Asante Kotoko took a huge step towards Ghana Premier League title as Mbella Etouga’s penalty proved enough to beat sworn rivals Hearts of Oak 1-0 at the Baba Yara Stadium on Sunday.
The Cameroonian cooly converted the first-half winner after Brazilian Fabio Gama was fouled by Hearts midfielder Abdulaziz Nurudeen.
The victory extends Kotoko’s lead over Hearts to 16 points, while keeping them 8 points ahead of second-placed Bechem United.
After failing to beat Hearts in their previous two meetings this season, Kotoko came into the game determined to win for the first time, and they got off to a strong start.
They pressed Hearts from the start, creating chances in the few minutes. In the third minute, Kotoko’s stand-in captain Ibrahim Imoro wriggled his way into the box and hit the frame of the post.
Hearts struggled to deal with Kotoko’s intensity and eventually conceded a penalty. Nurudeen was penalized for blocking Gama with his outstretched hand in the box.
Etouga, who had been criticised for poor performances against Hearts in the league and President’s Cup, stepped up and confidently scored to put Kotoko ahead in the 17th minute.
Hearts recovered after conceding and attempted to level the score, but Kotoko’s defence held firm, limiting the Phobians to long-range efforts.
Before halftime, however, Hearts captain Fatawu Mohammed had a great chance but blasted over under no pressure.
Hearts improved slightly in the second half. They pushed more players forward in search of an equalizer, but their final balls fell short.
Kotoko were happy to sit back and hit Hearts on the counter-attack. Etouga and Gama had good chances, but they couldn’t convert.
Hearts coach Samuel Boadu brought on former Kotoko and Black Stars defender Samuel Inkoom, who they signed earlier in the week, to try to inspire them to a point.
He didn’t have a good time on his return to a place he once called home, as Kotoko fans booed him whenever he had the ball.
Hearts may have to forget about the league and concentrate on winning the MTN FA Cup.
By: Enoch Fiifi Forson|3news.com|Ghana