Super Clash: Afriyie Barnieh fires Hearts past Kotoko
A second-half strike by Daniel Afriyie Barnieh proved crucial for Hearts of Oak as they edged arch-rivals Asante Kotoko in a match-week 31 encounter played at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Hearts with this win is now three points clear of their arch-rivals Kotoko and is on the verge of breaking their 11-year trophy drought with three matches remaining.
It was a very tense start to the game with Hearts applying the early pressure as they moved the ball around with depth.
Hearts midfielder Emmanuel Nettey tried his luck from 30 yards with a ferocious drive which was calmly collected by Kwame Baah in post for Kotoko.
Nettey had to be stretched off the field minutes later after sustaining a muscle strain and was replaced by Frederick Ansah Botchway.
The Kotoko backline was very much under pressure with a quarter of the game played but nearly took the lead in the 27th minute but Patrick Asmah’s 25-yard free-kick was kept out by goalkeeper Richard Attah.
Hearts were comfortable in possession while Kotoko often resorting to counterattacks.
Hearts defender Raddy Ovouka tested Kotoko goalie Kwame Baah with a 30- yard long-range effort but was comfortably saved by the goalkeeper.
Hearts defender Robert Addo Sowah nearly scored a dramatic own goal right at the end of the first half but his misdirected clearance missed by inches.
The first half ended scorelessly.
Hearts started the second half on the front foot and Salifu Ibrahim nearly scored the opener for the Phobians in the 50th minute but once again Kotoko goalkeeper Baah dealt with the situation easily.
Emmanuel Gyamfi who was largely silent in the game had a chance to put Kotoko in front past the hour mark but his effort on goal was wide.
Daniel Afriyie scored the opener for Hearts in the 66th minute when he curled in a beautiful effort past goalkeeper Kwame Baah.
Hearts despite taking the lead still pressed for the cushion goal with Afriyie Barnieh leading the charge.
Augustine Okrah nearly pulled parity for Kotoko in the 79th minute but his effort on goal was saved by Hearts goalkeeper Richard Attah.
Kotoko was not potent enough in the final third as Hearts held on to secure maximum points which push them closer to becoming champions.