And once again Ghana’s finest football clubs do battle at the Babayara sports stadium on Sunday as Steve Polack-inspired Asante Kotoko seek to clinch a first win -in as many matches – over Thomas Abbey’s Accra Hearts of Oak when the President Cup is placed at the center of the battle field where only the stronger survive.
Sunday’s Cup final is one in which we have the team with the best defence – Kotoko with Awal Mohammed as the chief defender – coming face to face with Hearts of Oak that boast of the best attack – with Thomas Abbey as the master attacker.
Its still the same game that presents us with the team – Kotoko – currently on form and unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions against the Phobians who have picked some few blips, initially their run was smooth but currently rough , maybe very rough when you consider the 5-0 loss at WAFA and the 1-0 home defeat to Ashantigold.
Again its the game between consistent Kotoko and inconsistent Hearts of Oak for the past 5 games.
But for some fans of the Porcupine Warriors and the Phobians, they prefer a win over their sworn rivals to finishing the season trophy-less and whilst that is not always rational , it underlines how massive Kotoko v Hearts of Oak games are for them.
Steve Polack has done some pretty excellent job since taking over as Kotoko’s coach winning 5 games and recording 2 draws in the league and the FA Cup and the fact that he remains unbeaten still puts some extra pressure on him that even if he will eventually lose a game, it should not be against Hearts of Oak – Kotoko’s strongest rivals in history and currently , especially when a trophy is at stake.
Meanwhile going into Sunday’s duel, Hearts of Oak takes inspiration from their recent superiority over their Kumasi-based rivals emerging victorious in the last three meetings against the Porcupine Warriors.
Kotoko enter the game with so much confidence based on their current run of form, picking wins at Tema Youth and Dwarfs in the league should be taken serious because these are credible sides in the Ghanaian championship this season. Just two goals conceded in their last seven games makes the Kotoko defence the stronger and the more difficult to permeate – but Hearts of Oak have got the more potent attack having scored 12 times in their last seven games despite their problematic defence which has taken 7 goals in 7 games.
Who has the better head to head record in the GHALCA President Cup?
Kotoko edge Hearts of Oak here. The two teams have met three times already in the President Cup with the Porcupine Warriors coming out as winners in 2004, 2005 and 2016 as Hearts of Oak settle with just one victory in 2015.
What are the results in the last 6 meeting between the two clubs?
Hearts – 3 wins
Kotoko – 2 wins
Draw – 1
Hearts of Oak have the edge on this front. The Phobians have won 3 including the penalty shoot-out win in the November 2016 GHALCA G6 semifinals tie in Kumasi and also two wins goes to Kotoko that came in the 1-0 league win at Accra last year and the penalty shoot-out win in the 2016 President Cup in Accra. The other game ended in a 1-1 draw in July 2016 in Kumasi during Week 21 of the Ghana premier league.
Key players ?
Sadick Adams is not expected to start the game as he’s just recovered from an injury and information is that the striker is not fully fit to start the game but his inclusion adds more attacking options for Kotoko if he does start. Nevertheless Steve Polack has likes of Yakubu Mohammed, Baba Mahama and defenders Awal Mohammed and Amos Frimpong to count on.
Hearts of Oak will be all about Thomas Abbey, Patrick Razak, Kwame Kizito and Malik Akowuah.
Who has the better coach?
Frank Nuttall will not be in charge of the game – according to Hearts of Oak , the coach has returned to his native Scotland to attend to urgent personal issues meaning for the third time this season assistant coach Henry Wellington has had to be the main man to lead the Phobians against Kotoko and in all three ocassions, Wellington reigned supreme – but against Michael Osei and Frimpong Manso. Polack is different game altogether. He has got Kotoko playing good and winning games.
This will be Polack’s first Kotoko – Hearts game and his biggest test. Wellington is more familiar this huge fixture having worked at Kotoko as deputy coach in the past and now the number 2 at Hearts of Oak. But in terms of technical knowhow and understanding of the modern game, Polack is a better manager.
Nuttall is the one who is more cosmopolitan and ahead of Mr. Polack but on Sunday the Phobians ould not be under the technical instructions of the Scottish trainer.
Take on the selected center referee William Agbovi ?
Was one of the best referees I regarded the highest but currently not my favorite referee. Have watched more than fifteen of his games in the Ghana premier league since 2012 and his officiating excellence has diminished. Was banned for 8 games last season for an awful refereeing in the Medeama – All Stars game. He was not on top in his last game handled between Asante Kotoko and Wa All Stars on 25th June 2017 in Kumasi. This is a massive fixture and the man in black FIFA referee Agbovi has to raise his game in order to make amends as some of the recent horrible officiating performances he has offered to the public have threatened his excellence.
Who is the favorite ?
There are no clear favorites. This is Hearts of Oak vs Kotoko where final outcomes of games can be odds defying.
Its 50-50. I think this will be very interesting game as we have Kotoko on hot form and Hearts of Oak’s mental toughness that comes to the fore anytime they play Kotoko in Kumasi. If Kotoko are able to stop the Phobian attack of Thomas Abbey, Kwame Kizito and Patrick Razak, they should be able to clinch this title with a slim win, 1-0 . Hearts of Oak on the other hand will rely on their attack to score the goals knowing that they have a shaky defence. Not many goals are expected from this game but whichever teams wins, it will do so with a narrow margin win.
To stick my neck out, I think this is going to be decided by penalty shoot-out.
Follow Gariba Raubil on twitter @GRAUBIL