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Sports News of Monday, 30 April 2018


Super Clash: How Hearts' Patrick Razak upstaged Kotoko's Yacouba Songne

Football is a game of fine margins.

It hinges on key moments and the ability to make the right decision when it matters most. Post-match narratives highlight key events and more importantly the subjects involved. It is a game of heroes and villains when all is said and done.

A player has to be crucified for a costly poor decision while another will be exalted for perhaps, the sole decision he got right which turned the tie around. Such was the outcome when the two biggest clubs in Ghana faced-off.

Asante Kotoko, who started the game as favorites, came in with the right approach, creating all the channels needed to suffocate Hearts of Oak in the opening minutes.

Patrick Razak (main picture) was the sorcerer conjuring all the magic for the Phobians, making dazzling runs, turning the Porcupine defense inside out and bullying defender Wahab Adams with his trickery. Hearts number 17 was the standout performer, and he thrilled fans with a superbly timed overhead kick in the second half after a flowing move.

Razak was phenomenal, and that overhead kick was worldie. Had it gone into the net, the goal would have got as much hype as Cristiano Ronaldo's recent one in the Champions League.

There were occasions when Razak would subtly hide himself from the opposition defense; making it uncomfortable to man-mark or track. Once the Kotoko defenders lost sight of him, they were tempted to move forward to join the midfield duo of Jackson Owusu and youngster Douglas Owusu Ansah, only for Razak to pounce on a counter-attack.

He did that many times, and Kotoko had no answers.

On one of those occasions, a misplaced pass reached him. Razak slalomed through the defense, dummied an onrushing Amos Frimpong - who had surged forward and left a gulf in defense - before angling the ball into the back of the net. He was running the show, without breaking a sweat.

As he has been all season, Razak was the hero for the Phobians. On the other hand, there was a player from the Porcupines who went home as the villain, and bore all the sins of his teammates.

The Porcupines were short of quality on the day.

Emmnauel Gyamfi looked overly reliant on his pace while Frederick Boateng looked out of (Obinim) stickers. Jackson Owusu was just a passer-by who kept arguing with the referee after every innocuous incident. Yet, it was debutant Yacouba Songne (pictured above) who finished the match knowing he alone had the magic wand to turn the tie around for the Reds.

But he failed.

Yacouba was the creative hub of the side as, through him, all meaningful attacks started for the Porcupines.

He was perhaps the home team’s only player who hardly took too many unnecessary touches on the ball. The Burkina Faso striker cushioned the ball well, opening up spaces for his reluctant colleagues to join the fray.

He did well with his few sprints and pressed the opponents’ defense, like he often showed in the first half. The younger was winning loose balls and looked a handful for the Phobian defenders.

And he showed his acumen and technical prowess whenever in possession; he sprayed simple but precise passes around.

Sogne's sumptuous freekick in the first half needed just a little bend to beat Hearts goalie Benjamin Mensah, and in the second, he struck the woodwork from a similar angle.

He’s not as incredibly fast like Razak, but he did the task midfieder Winful Cobbinah well. With Kwame Boahen and Baba Mahama out of the game, the Burkinabe forward stepped up and had a fine all-round game on his debut.

However, it was his miss in the final minutes of the game that would go on to haunt him and change the scripts of what would have been an otherwise memorable first outing. Yacouba, who was keeping the Hearts defense on their toes, rose to meet a fine cross but as he leapt, he paused in the air.

He knew this was the much-needed equalizer to cap a brilliant individual performance. He could hear the Kumasi Stadium roaring. Yet, it was that key moment when all eyes were on Yacouba that he failed the test of fate.

He directed the ball just few inches above the goalpost. There was no better chance than the one which was graciously presented to the player from Burkina Faso on a silver platter. He knew what had just happened and needed no telling. Yacouba slowly descended and buried his face in his palms. He needed no person to explain the ramifications of what he had just done.

His excellent game had been forgotten and Songne would for now be remembered as the player who failed to score the needed equalizer for Kotoko in a Super Clash. He's become the villain by default.