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Accra
Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Kosta Papić’s work cut out in Hearts of Oak stalemate with Karela United

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The return of Kosta Papić to Hearts of Oak was announced by the club three days ago.

As many expected, the Serbian coach was on the sidelines with the team, but only during warm-up.

He sat on an orange chair and watched his team go through drills with a wide smile on his face.

At the end of the session, Papić intercepted the team right before they head into the tunnel to get ready for the game against Karela.

Kosta Papić was seated on the touchline during the Hearts of Oak’s warm-up

It was unclear what the new Hearts coach said but there was a sense of togetherness as the team surrounded him and shouted in unity at the end of the mini speech.

After which Papić climbed onto the VIP section to take his seat among some of the big stakeholders in Ghana football including head coach of the national side CK Akonnor and his technical director Bernhard Lippert.

The game started with Hearts fired up. It’s almost as if the 20-time Premier League champions were high on adrenaline from the pep talk from Papić.

The home side threatened as Karela could barely have any influence on the game.

Patrick Razak had the best chance of the half as he got caught in two minds crossing the ball to touch after he had been played through on goal.

Hearts failed to make their dominance count as the adrenaline in the side dissipated with time. Karela as a result grew into the game and became more enterprising on the ball.

The game tilted towards equilibrium as the halftime whistle went with both sides rushing into the tunnel.

Papić also rushed down to join the team in the dressing room to try and raise the morale once again

Like a bit of Déjà vu, Hearts came out of the blocks more energised and looked set to score the first goal of the game.

Michelle Sarpong had two clear cut opportunities in ten minutes but failed to convert any.

The first, saw the the left-footed player at the right place at the right time after the Karela keeper parried an attempt into his path. All Sarpong had to do was connect and score however, he sliced his effort over the crossbar.

His second chance would come just minutes after as a lay off by Razak was met by a thunderbolt by Sarpong from outside the box. This time, he was denied by the crossbar.

The game plan by Karela was clear; and that was not to go back to Aiyinase empty-handed.

Time wasting antics were deployed early in the second half as Karela players needed medical attention whenever Hearts started to develop some momentum.

Hearts ended the game strongly creating a wave of opportunities which Razak and Kojo Obeng Jnr failed to take.

The final whistle was met by wild celebrations from Karela players and the technical team as they remain top of the league.

For Hearts, their woes compound as two points from their first three games is their worst ever start to a season since 1986.

The job for Papić is clear as he has to address the conversion rate of Hearts of Oak’s frontline.

After the game, assistant manager of the Accra-based club, Asare Bediako who sat on the technical bench against Karela United spoke of the tactical attempt to play Razak as a second striker.

However, in his explanation he kept referencing Papić stating that was how the Serbian wanted the team to play.

Papić wasn’t on the touchline today, but his imprints have become more visible as Hearts’ intensity peaked undulatingly.

It is the beginning of a second era, just that this time, unlike most coaches, Papić needs to focus on improving the attack first not the defence.

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