PRESSURE!: WHY KOTOKO MUST BEAT HEARTS

The Reds’ recent dip in form affords them little margin for error against the old enemy on Sunday

By: Sammie Frimpong

Who’d have thought Kumasi Asante Kotoko will be obliged to beat archrivals Accra Hearts of Oak thrice in a little over two months to prove they really are good enough?

That, however, is the exact situation the Porcupine Warriors find themselves in as they prepare to host the capital side in Sunday’s Ghana Premier League Matchday 21 meeting, courtesy a poor run of results recorded since the second half of the campaign commenced. Kotoko have won just one of their fixtures after the league’s June 26 resumption, failing to nail Bechem United in their most recent home game and following it up with a thoroughly humiliating 4-1 thrashing — now, when last did Kotoko lose by a margin so wide? — away to Ebusua Dwarfs on Wednesday.

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It’s a streak that’s seen them fail to take opportunities to top the table for the first time this season, and one that, even worse, has them a distant 4th, five points behind Hearts who — despite their own troubles — seem to be doing the little things just right.

Possessing the worst winning rate across the last five games among clubs occupying the table’s first quarter, Kotoko stand a very real risk of sinking even lower if the rot isn’t arrested over the next few games (third-placed Medeama do have a game in hand, mind), with every point lost/won counting for so much as the league enters its final ten-game stretch.

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Only three weeks ago, after winning his third cup in an interim capacity at the helm of Kotoko — and recording a second success over Hearts in the process — did it seem head coach Michael Osei could almost certainly be handed the substantive role, but the 44-year-old now sees the pressure mounting relentlessly as his charges head into a contest which could potentially define Kotoko’s goal of reclaiming the league title relinquished to regional rivals Ashantigold last term and, by extension, securing the only ticket guaranteeing them a return to continental action. With a daunting trip to Osei’s former employers, New Edubiase, and dates with ambitious clubs in the standings’ top half following, Kotoko desperately need to pick up some momentum to thrive on.

Kotoko fans, needless to say, hate nothing more than dropping points against Hearts in Kumasi, and — if such a negative result ends up stoking the fire powering the Phobians‘ own quest for a first championship crown since 2009 — this would definitely hurt.

Put simply, Kotoko cannot afford to fall further behind in the title race than they already have. And while Hearts would surely not pass up the opportunity to avenge recent setbacks in encounters with Kotoko, it’s obvious which club would be feeling more of the heat in this particular ‘Super Clash

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