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Sports News Sun, 16 Jun 2019

NC Special Cup Preview: Hearts and Kotoko clash in country’s flagship game

Ghana’s leading clubs – Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak are set to face off in a promising duel in the semi-finals of the NC Special Competition on Sunday at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Kotoko make the trip to the Ghanaian capital from the second biggest commercial city in the West African country. The red-jerseyed Porcupine Warriors, coached by former Ghana captain Charles Akonnor, have reached the last four of both tiers of the NC Special Competition.

Kim Grant, a former English Premier League striker with Charlton Athletic and a Ghana international, is credited with turning round a Hearts of Oak side that was going down.

Hearts remain unbeaten at the Accra Sports Stadium in the Tier 1 and have scored more goals than any team in the competition.

Managing Director of the 2000 CAF Champions League winners Frederick Moore declared on Asempa FM on Friday that his side are poised to win against their bitterest rivals.

Hearts have been boosted by the return of centre back Mohammed Alhassan who trained with the Black Stars squad in Dubai as part of Ghana’s provisional 29-man squad.

Kotoko coach Akonnor have offensive midfielder Abdul Safiu Fatawu available for selection after his failure to make the cut for the final 23-man squad. But, dependable goalkeeper Felix Annan is away on international duty with the Black Stars.

Fans are anticipating a heated midfield battle between Benjamin Afutu Kotey of Hearts of Oak and former Gefle IF midfielder Kwame Bonsu who plays for Asante Kotoko.

NCSC Opta Facts

Sunday’s game will be Hearts’ 8th home game in the competition. (W7 LD)

Christopher Bonney, Hearts of Oak, is the highest scoring defender in the competition.

Bonney has been directly involved in more goals than any defender in the competition. And, is the only player in both sides to have represented the two sides.

Hearts have 8 different scorers for their 20 goals.

Only Ebusua Dwarfs and Elmina Sharks have been able to breach the Hearts of Oak defence while all visiting clubs have shipped goals except Liberty Professionals. Visiting clubs have conceded 13 goals.

Kotoko’s 3-0 battering of Techiman XI Wonders remains their only away win the competition so far. But, have tasted defeats against Medeama and AshantiGold. (W1 D3 L2).

Kotoko have scored 5 away goals and conceded 4. Only Berekum Chelsea and XI Wonders failed to score against Kotoko in their away matches.

Though Kotoko is not counted among high scoring clubs in the competition they have the strongest reputation for conceding less goals (5) better than all clubs both in Premier A and B.

Kotoko’s 3-1 win over Hearts in an FA Cup final two seasons ago remain a painful memory for the Phobians. Striker Saddick Adams scored a hat-trick at the Tamale Sports Stadium.

Aside that Kotoko have lost thrice in their last 7 games in the Premier League against Hearts.

Kotoko’s last visit to the venue in the top-flight league resulted in a 1-0 but they claimed a 1-0 victory over Hearts on May 2, 2016.

The last time the two sides met in June at the venue was in 2009. Francis Coffie headed home the match winner from a Harrison Afful free-kick on 75th minute to aid Kotoko claim their first League win over their archrivals in Accra dating back to 1993.

What to expect from Kim Grant

In what has been a resurgent period for the Rainbow club the head coach has managed to bring out the best from his backline. The former striker has gagged every space on the right by uniting and combining the energies of Christopher Bonney and Fatawu Mohammed who are both lateral defender. Bonney is a king of assists with his tailor-made crosses while Fatawu, the captain, has scored twice playing as the number 7.

Hearts of Oak probable XI: Richmond Ayi – Christopher Bonney, William Dankyi, Mohammed Alhassan, Robert Addo Sowah – Benjamin Afutu Kotey, Daniel Kodie, Aminu Alhassan, Michelle Sarpong, Abdul Manaf Gumar Umar Jnr – Joseph Esso

Formation: 4-1-4-1

Who to watch: Benjamin Afutu Kotey

What to expect from C. K Akonnor

With Felix Annan unavailable former Ghana U17 goalkeeper Ibrahim Danlad is expected to be started in post ahead of Kwame Baah and Muntari Tagoe. Akonnor might not risk Burkina Faso forward Songne Yacouba who recently resumed training after recovering from injury.

Abdul Safiu Fatawu is expected to feature prominently for the Porcupine Warriors but a starting berth is uncertain for former TP Mazembe midfield engineer Daniel Nii Adjei.

Kotoko probable XI: Danlad Ibrahim – Amos Frimpong, Daniel Darkwah, Abdul Ganiyu Ismail, Wahab Adams – Kwame Bonsu, Prince Acquah, Kwame Boahene, Daniel Nii Adjei – Abdul Safiu Fatawu, Obed Owusu

Source: footballghana.com