After wrapping up the Premier League title last season, Hearts of Oak are enduring possibly the most unwanted of seasons, despite already securing the President’s Cup.
Hearts’ form this season sends a warning that, that could be the only piece of silverware the Phobians win this season. They have been largely inconsistent, so despite securing a relatively comfortable draw versus Elmina Sharks in the FA Cup, there is no assurance Samuel Boadu’s side will sail through.
Hearts failed to win any of their first four games of the league season and 16 weeks later, the defending champions are 15 points behind leaders, Kotoko.
“We have decided to chase Kotoko and if you want to chase Kotoko, you have to win all your matches,” Aduana Stars assistant coach Ben Zola, said after his side’s 1-0 victory over Hearts.
Albeit having an eight-point deficit, Aduana Stars, who are currently second on the itable have basically taken up Hearts of Oak’s ‘responsibility’ and kept tabs with Kotoko. The Ogya boys have won 11 of their 20 games, while Kotoko have 13.
Meanwhile Hearts have only seven victories from 20 but Boadu is still optimistic of Hearts’ chances: “No, it’s [title chances] not yet over. This is football you could see the boys played well, but it’s just unfortunate we couldn’t score.”
Both Hearts and Kotoko have 14 games left to end the season and rightly so, this is football but what are Hearts chances of toppling the Porcupines?
Hearts are 15 points off Kotoko and while the Porcupines have turned on turbo speed and flying through the season, the Phobians are merely clutching and scraping results here and there.
Kotoko have scored 10 goals in their last five fixtures while Hearts have managed only four goals in the same period and this trend merely throws light on the difficulty of Hearts’ challenge.
Etouga Mbella and Georges Mfegue have scored 20 goals this season, two more than Hearts have managed in the entire campaign. Kofi Kordzi, who was widely tipped to rival Mbella, has dried up in goals and his replacements in Afriyie Barnieh and Obeng Junior have failed to shine.
“We always train, these are the mistakes we identify and aim to correct. This [correction] is not a day’s work, it takes a matter of time. If we don’t create any chances, that’ll be the fault of the technical team but individual brilliance and composure needs to be talked about,” Boadu said in his post-match press conference after his side’s defeat to Aduana.
That defeat was another painful one where after creating all the chances, Hearts had to leave with nothing simply because their forwards could seem to remember where the goal is.
Also, Hearts have been largely underwhelming this season, boasting of a winning streak only once when they’ve won consecutively. Meanwhile, Kotoko have on two occasions won four games on the bounce, once won three in a row and twice won consecutively.
Last season, Hearts boasted a streak of 5 victories on the bounce and repeating that feat will only be a dream for the side. But it is a dream which needs to be realized soon if Boadu’s words of ‘this is football’ should manifest.
With 14 games left, the maximum number of points Hearts can pick up is 42 and winning all their games up till end of season, will take their tally to 71 – ten more points than the tally which won them the title last year.
But should Kotoko keep their form and also win all their games, they will end the season with 86 points, 15 more than Hearts’ potential.
Games to count
However, the odd occasion has revealed that Kotoko also have moments where they fail to impress – dropping points to King Faisal and relegation threatened Elmina Shaleague are cases in point.
For Boadu and Hearts, they will derive solace from the fact that the Porcupines still have a mixture of at least four tricky or difficult games to come. Games against Aduana Stars, Great Olympics, King Faisal and RTU are all games Kotoko could drop either a point or all points.
After beating Hearts, Zola revealed the ‘Osagyefo Project’, aimed at stealing the season’s title from the two biggest clubs in the country. But Kotoko’s 2-0 away win at Aduana will give Narteh Ogum’s side confidence.
However, Kotoko will travel to Tamale to face RTU, a side which have lost only one home game all season. And Kotoko’s failure to win at the Baba Yara versus RTU might come back to haunt the Porcupines, especially if David Abagna makes it back in time for the game.
The fixture versus Great Olympics needs no preview, really. The Dade boys pride themselves in destroying Hearts and Kotoko parties and will want to be thorns when the Porcupines travel to Accra.
One last ‘Super Dance’
If there is one thing which will please Boadu and Hearts faithful, then it will surely be the fact that they have one final Super Clash to play.
Hearts have been a real phobia to the Porcupines this season. The Premier League game between the two at the Accra Sports Stadium will have ended 1-0 in favour of Hearts if Obeng Junior knew how to finish.
Ogum, who is naturally calm at press conferences, seemed to have lost his cool and took a dig at Hearts saying, “Hearts of Oak have never played like this before.”
But two weeks later, Patrick Razak took Obeng Junior to finishing school and ultimately proved to Ogum that the first result was no fluke, when he coolly rounded Danlad Ibrahim to grab a late winner for Hearts in the President’s Cup.
Hearts of Oak have some winnable games on the horizon, and should they get rid of their inconsistencies, while praying for favours from other teams, they could probably be in another title-deciding Super Clash when they visit Baba Yara.
But their task in the next weeks will be to get at least 27 points from their next 10 games.
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Source: Mishael Quaynor