Accra Hearts of Oak snatched a good point on their first return to the Dawu Park in a competitive game in 16 years, by playing a 1-1 drawn game with Dreams Football Club FC in the ultimate game of the first round of the 2016 Ghana Premier League season.
Substitute Paul Acquah stole the points for Hearts late in the game with a spectacular strike in the 84th minute to cancel out Lawson Bekui’s first half strike.
Hearts rode their luck in the closing stages, including being saved by the flag after Dreams had the ball in the back of the net in the dying minutes, but their celebration was cut short as the match officials stood their ground to deny the hosts.
The visitors were also denied two stone-wall penalties in the second half as they sought a way back into the game.
At the end, Dreams could have won it at the death, but Hearts’ endeavor and fighting spirit made it possible for them to earn the valuable point that keeps them in the race for the title at the halfway stage of the season.
Hearts Coach Kenichi Yatsuhashi made two changes to the side that lost to Liberty last Thursday.
Emmanuel Layea Sarbah and Richard Akrofi came in for Eric Kumi and Vincent Atingah respectively.
Dreams were led by ex-Phobian Abdul Bashiru whilst Eric Gawu and Emmanuel Hayford took their places on the bench together with former Hearts backroom staffers C.K Akunnor, James Commey-Bortsie, Abubakari Damba and ex-Hearts precocious star Winfred Dormon amongst the technical team of the hosts.
With the past connection so strong, it was Dreams, now bankrolled by ex-Hearts Management team member Kurt Okraku, who started not surprisingly on a brighter note, pushing the visitors back in the opening minutes with the Phobians unable to break the siege.
But in the 17th minute, when it appeared Hearts had fully settled Dreams drove into dreamland at their “theatre of dreams” home.
Lawson Bekui’s endeavor was rewarded after he won the upper body battle with skipper Gnange in the Hearts box. The striker made no mistake as he unleashed a lovely finish past Akurugu for the opener.
Hearts did not coil or buckle as they tried to find a way back into the game. Soon, they nearly got the equalizer when Samuel Yeboah headed past Mozart Adjetey, who had missed the ball from a cross, but the chance went wayward.
The Dreams goalkeeper again showed his lack of conviction from another aerial ball in the box, losing sight of the trajectory of a floated corner kick, for Richard Akrofi to pounce. But unfortunately, the Hearts defender side-footed the ball narrowly wide with the net gaping.
At the other end, Akurugu was also forced into a number of saves with the hosts unwilling to sit on their goal lead.
However, they changed their game plan for the second half with most of their players falling at the least contact in a bid to wind down the clock.
Kenichi had thrown on Paul Acquah and Eric Kumi for Sarbah and Yeboah respectively just before the restart.
And Kumi was the first to make the Dreams defense quake after following a ballooned ball in the box, but though Mozart got to the ball first, he needlessly took out the Hearts attacker before clutching it in his arms.
The Hearts protest was minimal as play was allowed to continue.
But the visitors voice reached a crescendo when on two occasions they were denied what clearly looked like obvious penalties by Referee Seidu Bomison.
Cosmos Dauda’s reverse cross in the box was cut out by the flailing arms of Emmanuel Eli Keke but once again, play was allowed to continue.
Moments later, the Phobians gave up on winning a first penalty kick in the first round when Isaac Mensah, darted past two players in the box only to be brutally hacked down. But rather strangely and unbelievable, Mensah was booked for a dive.
The decision was difficult to swallow but Hearts soldiered on.
Substitute Paul Acquah produced a moment of magic to fire home a beautiful strike, deceiving Mozart and the Dreams defense, to find the back of the net in the 84th minute.
Hearts fans found their voices again but Dreams would not countenance another draw at home knowing very well what lies ahead in the return encounter. They pushed men forward and got the ball at the back of the net only to be flagged for offside. The decision incensed all their players as they circled Referee Seidu Bomison to no avail.
Akurugu was on guard to deny the hosts late in the game as Hearts returned to the capital with a point that still keeps them in the race for the title.
Hearts XI vs Dreams: Samuel Akurugu, Fatawu Mohammed , Kennedy Appiah, Robin Gnange (c ), Richard Akrofi, Sarbah Laryea (45 Paul Acquah), Ollenu Ashitey , Mustapha Essuman, Cosmos Dauda (72 Musah Ibrahim), Samuel Yeboah (45 Eric Kumi), Isaac Mensah.
Unused substitutes: Mutawakilu Seidu, Vincent Atingah, Leonard Tawiah, Foovi Foovi Aguidi.
Dreams XI vs Hearts: Mozart Adjetey, Emmanuel Eyison, Godfred Asante, Richard Ocran, Emmanuel Elikeke, Prosper Donkor (61 Emmanuel Hayford), Michael Sarpong (75 Eric Gawu), Emmanuel Lomotey, Lawson Bekui, Aaron Amoah, Abdul Bashiru
Unused substitutes: Ishawu Yahaya, Ben Quansah, Johnson Oppong, Kingsley Yeboah.
Credit: Anwar Umar Larry | Hearts of Oak