This was a Hearts performance that inspired a feeling of hope amidst their fans. Over their last three league games, they had struggled, losing all of them and surrendering second place on the league log to Heart of Lions. But they were determined to bounce back, and they did.
An hour before kickoff, Bechem United's talismanic playmaker and the league's top scorer Augustine Okrah hang around just outside the main stadium, his with a tight black shirt, a pair of jeans and his backpack. His teammates were by then training on the pitch before kickoff, and though Okrah was smiling, taking pictures and saying a lot of 'hi's to fans who were awed to finally see him, deep down, he must've been disappointed to miss out.
He wasn't qualified to play because he was suspended. His absence would later turn out to have a telling effect, as his side looked very ordinary and increasingly vapid in the final third. They played without a sense of belief and looked bare without their star man.
The game itself exploded into life right from the onset. Hearts kicked off with a noticeable adrenalin rush, all guns blazing, and worked their way into the Bechem area, eventually forcing a corner. By the time Bechem could organize themselves and settle into the game, they had conceded: Hearts' Emmanuel Hayford got on the end of the corner with a well timed header that deflected on it's way to rattling the net. It was the perfect start, and the celebrations that followed were wild, laced with raw excitement.
But things would change in a matter of minutes. Bouyed by Hearts' predictable loss of concentration amidst the post-goal excitement, Bechem impressively responded. They needed just five minutes to catch Heart's defence napping and stun the home crowd.
Midfielder Proper Donkor found a lose ball falling to him straight down the middle, and with the goal roughly 25 yards out, he lashed in a belter that went past Hearts' goalie Tetteh Luggard who had been rooted to his spot. The euphoria amongst the home fans died down, like a balloon punctured during it's flight upwards.
Hearts were the better side after the early drama, starting with steady control through to building up momentum. Though there were many stoppages, one of which lasted almost 10 minutes after the two goals, Hearts were able to sustain their control, piling on the pressure on Bechem. Goal scorer Emmanuel Hayford run the show with a virtuoso display. His movement ws excellent, his passing delightful. He was at the heart of everything good for Hearts, who were fired up and playing with a lot of confidence.
It would be a long half of suffering for Bechem who had to chase the ball for close to an hour: yes, an hour, for that was how long the first half lasted. The many stoppages meant the fourth referee had to bizarrely signal 10 minutes of time added on, and interestingly, there were about five minutes played on top of it, as more stoppages occured.
The second half followed the same script: Hearts bossing, Bechem struggling. Hearts kept insisting with attack after attack till they became too hard to defend against. Bechem eventually broke down and gave in. They conceded a penalty, captain Papa Yaw Yeboah bringing down Hearts' Winful Cobbinah, who had smartly looked for the penalty with a clever touch away. Defender and penalty taker extraordinaire Robin Gnagne stepped up and made no mistake, sending fans into a rapturous celebratory mood.
The charged mood inside the stadium spurred Hearts on as they went on looking for more goals. Bar a brief spell of control by Bechem in the dying minutes, it was all Hearts. They played their heart outs and gave their fans a reason to smile after the blast of the full time whistle.
Hearts of Oak XI: Tetteh Luggard - Hamza Fusseini, Robin Gnagne, Philip Boampong (35' Abdul Fatawu), Kweku Andoh - Owusu Bempah, Nuru Sule, Emmanuel Hayford, Eric Kumi (73' Maxwell Boakye) - Winful Cobbinah, Ezekiel Tetteh (63' Selasi Adjei)
Bechem United XI: Ernerst Adu - Patrick Cole, Patrik Opoku, Papa Yaw Yeboah (c), Asante Agyemang - John Nyamekye, Abu Naba (80' Yaw Annor), Prosper Donkor, Razak Egyir (73' Bright Nsiah) - Rahman Abass (45' Charles Dwamena), Toufic Ayinla
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