By Anwar U. Larry from the Techiman Ohene Ameyaw Park
Accra Hearts of Oak had to settle for a 1-1 draw away at Techiman XI Wonders in their opening fixture of the 2017/18 Ghana Premier League season on Sunday.
Winful Cobbinah put Hearts in the lead, converting from the spot when Joseph Esso was brought down in the box, in the 8th minute of the game.
But Alex Asamoah drew Wonders level, heading home from close range from a free kick four minutes before the hour mark.
Hearts cranked up the pressure in search of the match winner but Fatawu, skipper on the day, was denied twice, with Esso and substitute Cosmos Dauda drawing out world class saves from the irrepressible John Moosie.
The Phobians could have gotten the cushioning goal had they been a little decisive in the final third especially in the first half but the lack of a second strike allowed XI Wonders a way back into the game.
Coach Henry Wellington handed debuts to four new players. Strikers Joseph Esso and Auroras product Selasie Bakai led the attack whilst Benjamin Agyare and Evans Quao played at the heart of the Hearts defense.
With Inusah Musah missing the game due to injury, Fatawu was handed the armband and it partly inspired him on the right flank as he led our charge for the winner in the second half.
The game was open from the referee’s blast of the whistle and Agyare had to be on his guard to block Alex Asamoah under one minute of play. Two minutes later and at the other end Selasie, with his back to goal, leapt to control Cobbinah’s chipped effort with his chest but he could not turn to apply the finish as Moosie raced to gather.
Referee Dunfe had to stamp his authority early on to curb Eleven Wonders’ aggressive style with Fuseini Alidu going into the book in the fourth minute. But they did not heed as another reckless challenge on the through-on-goal Esso convinced the referee to point to the spot in the sixth minute.
It took two minutes for Eleven Wonders players to accept the decision, pressuring the centerman to consult his assistant, who acceded with the earlier decision.
Cobbinah had picked the ball up during Wonders' protest and he blasted home when calm was restored to put Hearts in the driving seat.
The hosts were rocked by the goal whilst it gave Hearts wings to soar. And they should have doubled their lead when Akowuah turned over possession before finding Esso who quickly exchanged passes with Fatawu.
Fatawu had a clear sight at goal but his effort was blocked and though it was on target, Moosie comfortably collected. The two sides went at each other again but neither could hit target with Esso sailing his effort high whilst Kwadwo Amoako and Seth Kwaku taking turns to lift their free kicks over the bar from good positions.
In the 27th minute, Hearts opened up the Wonders defense but Cobbinah failed to spot the diagonal run of Esso and ran into traffic.
Midfielder Daniel Kordie was almost everywhere for Hearts as the game wore on and he’s at the heart of our next attack. He found Cobbinah just outside the box with a sweet pass but his low pass for Selasie was away from goal forcing the youngster to turn outside.
On the half-hour mark, Wonders captain Prince Gyan tried his luck from range but his effort failed to trouble Gbeti. They were back again shortly afterwards but Quao had to stretch to kick out Abdul Wahab’s inviting cross.
Selasie did well to get a weaker header on target following on Esso’s nodded effort from Akrofi’s long throw. The game swung from one end to the other but Hearts were in control. Akowuah and Cobbinah took shots from range but neither of them could hit target.
Quao headed into the side net after leaping to reach Cobbinah’s cross as Hearts pressed to extend their lead.
The first half ended 0-1in favor of Hearts.
Just before the restart, Eleven Wonders made a double change and it helped them to get a stranglehold in the game. And three minutes later, they had an effort on target. Asamoah pounced on a loose ball in the box and powered a low shot at our goal. Gbeti stood his grounds and produced a good save.
Esso responded at the other end after latching on Cobbinah’s pass. The striker drove in-field, skipping past two players before eventually drilling the ball at goal but once again Moosie saved.
The game sprang open once again but it’s Wonders who benefitted. Isaac Mensah conceded a foul close to the box and the byline. From the free kick, Wonders defender Amoako kept his cool to pick out Asamoah’s head in the crowded box with the former Berekum Arsenal striker powering the ball home in the 56th minute.
XI Wonders found their rhythm after the goal and they nearly went ahead but Gbeti had to deny them with a splendid save. Before that, Fatawu’s low cross was deflected on target by Martin Kyeremeh but Moosie was alert to tip the looping ball over.
Henry Lamptey introduced Cosmos for Selasie as Hearts went in search of the winner. The striker was involved straight away, setting Esso through on goal but the striker was hemmed out.
In the 69th minute, Hearts waited for the net to bulge with Akowuah cleverly picking up the run of Fatawu but the wingback’s superb volleyed effort was incredibly clawed out by Moosie.
A minute later, Hearts were back again. Cobbinah slipped Esso through but the attacker was swept off his feet by the keeper but the penalty appeal was turned down.
Eleven Wonders went close but Gbeti also denied Abdul Wahab. The keeper was called back into action again and he did well to double palm out an arcing cross-cum-shot fired from the left flank. Again, he denied Abu Dauda’s thumped effort from range with a finger tip.
In the last 10 minutes, chances opened up for the two sides. Cobbinah went down in the box following a two-footed challenge, yet again the referee failed to point to the spot. But that did not deter the Phobians who kept pushing to the very end.
Substitute Cosmos could have been the hero after beating his man in the box and firing a powerful effort from a tight angle in the box however Moosie rose to the challenge by punching the ball out.
Hearts did all they could but they just couldn’t go past the irrepressible Moosie as they left Techiman with only a point.
Hearts XI vs. XI WONDERS: Evans Gbeti, Fatawu Mohammed (c), Richard Akrofi, Benjamin Agyare, Evans Quao, Malik Akowuah, Isaac Mensah, Daniel Kordie, Joseph Esso, Selasie Bakai (62’ Cosmos Dauda)
Booked: Joseph Esso
Unused substitutes: Theophilus Jackson, Raddy Okemba, Joshua Otoo, Robert Addo, Chris Bonney
ELEVEN WONDERS STARTING XI: John Moosie, Kwadwo Amoako, Prince Gyan (c) (45’ Husein Yusuf), Emmanuel Boahene (64’ Hassan Nurain), Kwaku SETH (45’ Benjamin Owusu), Abdul Wahab, Alex Asamoah, Fuseini Alidu, Kyeremeh Martin
Unused substitutes: Kwaku Adu, Alhassan Tahidu, Kwamina Emmanuel, Fuseini Ganiu
Booked: Fuseini Alidu (4), Martin Kyeremeh (7), Abu Dauda (12)
GOAL: Alex Asamoah (56)
Match Referee: Bernard Dunfe