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Sports News of Monday, 8 June 2015


Hearts of Oak: Continental dreams end in Accra

Coach Herbert Addo Coach Herbert Addo

The Ghana giants are out after being defeated by Esperance

Hearts of Oak ’s run in continental competition this season came to an end with a 1-1 draw against Esperance de Tunis at the Accra Sports Stadium on Saturday.

Progression was always going to be a tough ask for Hearts, who were defeated 4-0 in the first leg in Tunisia three weeks ago.

That crushing loss meant that a berth in the next round always looked like an outside bet, but the Phobians weren’t even able to secure a victory in front of their fans, who were forced to accept the reality of their elimination as the match wore on.

Supporters—who created a wall of emotional support before the match—will perhaps have taken some solace in the home side’s performance, particularly against one of Africa’s strongest sides.

They enjoyed the majority of possession during the opening stages having come out of the blocks quickly.

The domestic giants’ intentions were clear—to put the visitors under pressure from the off—and their approach paid off on four minutes.

A fine cross from Isaac Oduro—demonstrating the kind of vision that makes him such an irresistible talent on occasion—was met by Isaac Mensah, with the starlet heading past Moez Ben Cherifa with aplomb.

The goal buoyed the home fans, who began to sense that an unlikely upset might be on the cards.

Their encouragement drove Herbert Addo’s side on, but they remembered their mortality moments later when Esperance had the ball in the net.

Fortunately for the Ghanaian heavyweights, however, the goal was ruled as offside.

If an unlikely possession was to be made reality, it was imperative that Hearts scored a second before the break. They had their chances, but profligate finishing continually let the visitors off the hook, prompting understandable frustration among the home fans.

Hearts attempted to put the North Africans under pressure after the break, but their attacks appeared less intense and even less menacing, with the prospect of elimination looming large. Esperance, confident that their considerable lead would see them through, were content to sit back and soak up the pressure.

Ben Cherifa made a couple of critical saves, but to the dismay of the home fans, it was as close as they came to further closing the deficit.

Any lingering optimism—however unlikely—evaporated four minutes from the end when Wassim Naghmouchi, played in by former Nigeria U20 striker Samuel Eduok, fired past Burkinabe stopper Abdoulaye Soulama.

The crowd began to steadily depart immediately after the goal went in, with fans left to reflect on the group-stage dreams that will never be, and another continental campaign when The Soccer Paradise fail to re-establish themselves as a genuine force to be reckoned with on the African stage.