Accra Hearts of Oak became the first side to qualify to the semi-final of the ongoing Ghana Football Association (GFA) Normalisation Committee’s Special Competition after they secured a narrow 1-0 win against Karela FC at the Accra Sports Stadium yesterday to consolidate their position on top of the Southern zone (Group B) log.
Hearts needed a 74th minute goal by Christopher Bonney, who scored from a spot kick, to give Kim Grant’s side a deserved victory which opened a four-point gap ahead of their nearest challengers, Karela.
Bonney netted the decisive spot kick after Hearts midfielder Daniel Kodie was fouled in the Karela goal area during a beautiful interplay with skipper Fatawu Mohammed.
The goal lifted the spirit of the Phobians who endured a tough second half with Karela dominating possession after the recess.
Hearts needed the win to ensure they played at the knockout stage but they met an equally good Karela side who came into the match well prepared to cause an upset.
Both sides showed resilience in their play despite the slippery nature of the pitch as a result of an early downpour which made ball control difficult.
In the 37th minute, the Phobians came close to scoring the opener after a great team effort but Fatawu shot wide with his final effort.
After a difficult first half for both sides, Karela returned onto the pitch with a lot of vigour and pressed the hosts for the opener but the Hearts defence was alert to avert any danger.
Karela’s Solomon Sarfo Taylor had an opportunity to put his team in front after 52 minutes when he was faced with goalkeeper Richmond Ayi of Hearts only to fluff his effort.
Coach Grant of Hearts decided to replace academy graduate Manaf Umar with bulky striker Kofi Kordzi in the 59th minute as he looked to bring more life into his attack, and also introduced Malik Akowuah for Aminu Alhassan in the 69th minute.
The substitution paid off as Kordzi troubled Karela’s defence with his stature and Akowuah ensured that Hearts maintained possession.
Karela, in their bid to prevent Hearts from effectively utilising long passes, resorted to holding onto the ball, but the impressive Daniel Kodie picked up a ball in the 72nd for a fine two-man play with Fatawu only to be fouled in the box, leading to the spot kick which secured all three points for the hosts.