Soccer News of Monday, 2 February 2004
The first round of the delayed Coca Cola Top Four competition ended last Sunday with Accra Hearts of Oak taking a slim lead ahead of the three other competitors.
The competition preceded by the infamous back-and-forth of Kotoko's participation due to insufficient appearance fee did not however, affect the competitive spirit of the game. The contest has been action-packed with all four teams displaying some quality football to befit the name of the competition.
Hearts may be on top of the Standings but the most impressive team no doubt has been Kumasi-based King Faisal.
They stunned Kotoko by a lone goal in Kumasi and gave Hearts wake-up call in their clash, which ended one all at the Accra Sports Stadium. Perhaps it was Liberty's shock victory over Faisal in the final round matches on Sunday that confirmed a popular saying in football circles that: "there is no logic in football".
After losing two of their matches, the Dansoman-based Liberty, pulled a surprise 1-0 win over highly fancied Faisal to narrow the gap at the top.
This mixed results no doubt, point to the fact that the eventual winner could only be known after perhaps the final matches. Twelve matches have so far been played; four were wins, four draws, four losses while a total of 25 goals have been recorded and 12 considered by all the teams.
In all ten players have been able to hit the back of the net for their respective clubs with Ablade Morgan of Hearts leading the pack with two goals while highly ranked strikers like Kwadwo Poku of King Faisal and Don Bortey of Hearts have scored one apiece.
Six players from three clubs namely Hearts, Kotoko and Faisal have each won player of the match awards in the first round, while Liberty Professionals is yet to pick an award. Dan Quaye and Louis Agyeman won it for Hearts, Habib Mohamed, Eric Gawu and Prince Antwi for Faisal while Yussif Chibsah picked it for Kotoko.
The competition has also unveiled some budding talents which, includes Frank Kornu, Nii Nanka Bruce, Prince Antwi, Tuaha Khamix and one of them could emerged as the discovery of the competition.
No red card has been recorded yet but few players received the yellow cards.
Refereeing has been fairly balance but T. R. K. Attifu nearly marred the game on Sunday between Hearts and Kotoko where he disallowed a 40th-minute good goal by Lawrence Adjei and also ended the day with several indecisions.
Sadly though, SWAG coach of the year, Abdul Karim Razak of Kumasi Asante Kotoko was axed as helmsman two days before the team's crucial game with Hearts and thus, remains the only coach not to have seen the end of the first half of the competition.
His technical director Malik Jabir who also doubles as the acting Chief Executive Officer of the club until a substantive one is chosen has taken his place.
The output of the clubs have been excellent and attendance, very encouraging.
Even a depleted Liberty Professionals who are stuck at the bottom of the standings have been too hot for their opponents to handle providing fans with some quality football.
Now that the teams have rediscovered their rhythm, the second round would definitely be exciting and full of fireworks.
Hearts trek to Kumasi as guest of Faisal while a resurgent Liberty welcome Kotoko in Accra on Sunday.
Hearts will try to consolidate their stay at the top while Faisal who just recorded their first loss will be making amends on Sunday; it will surely be a cracker.
Kotoko remain in Accra to engage Liberty in another fierce battle and Malik Jabir will like to convince his employers of his competence. The inclusion of high-profile striker, Asamaoh Gyan, who left for Italy to join Undinese will no too ways make the Liberty attack thick and would give Kotoko a good run for their money.