Sapholda Hockey League: Exchequers, GRA edge closer to ACCC
The early rain showers on Saturday was not a bother as the Sapholda Hockey league continued with week 9 fixtures. An intriguing, passion filled match week with mixed feelings. Exchequers extended their unbeaten run and a step closer to the league title as GRA held Police to a goalless drawn game to grab the second qualification spot to ACCC as it stands.
Defending league champions, GRA engaged Police in a must win for both teams with a lot at stake. A win for GRA ensures not only qualification for ACCC but also the league trophy while Police were eager for the maximum to make an appearance on the continent after missing out last year.
The match started with both teams careful and weary of the other. With both teams dangerous and experts in penalty corners, the attention was drawn to GRA’s Ernest Opoku, Salya Nsalbini and Damalie Luke as well as Police’s Sam Benedict, Alfred Ntiamoah and Johnny Botsio.
An end to end tactical outing by both teams saw no real chance in the opening minutes. However, GRA were the better in the first quarter and got awarded with a penalty corner. Cheers and jeers from the bench and supporters of the revenue controllers depicted how anxious they waited for this opportunity. The phenomenal Ernest Opoku stepped up to execute with a drag flick into the top right corner but goalkeeper Acquah Benjamin was on spot to pull a brilliant save. Goalless the first quarter ended.
Police regrouped and started very well in the second quarter. A misunderstanding amongst the GRA players gifted a chance to Johnny Botsio. The Ghanaian international managed to go past goalkeeper Eugene Acheampomg but a little delay and so many touches than expected allowed the GRA defence track back to shield their goal post. The tenacious attacker failed to score but eventually won a penalty corner.
Poor ejection accompanied with a bad stop and a feeble conversion and Police wasted the opportunity. Another penalty corner and same procedure let the law enforcers down as they failed to make it count. Two penalty corners and not even a single shot on target. The anxiety of qualifying to Africa seemed to have put a little pressure in the shoulders of both teams. So unlikely a situation- three penalty corners in a GRA-Police game and the deadlock still not broken.
Acquah Benjamin pulled two excellent saves in the third quarter after Arthur Ebenezer was left one-on-one with him. The Police ‘goalie’ stood his position to keep the scoreline 0-0.
Richard Adjei with one of his defense splitting runs won Police another penalty corner. The same trend and yet again Police squandered the penalty corner. A game which has seen an equality in terms of play by both teams will not end fairly without equality in penalty corners. GRA in the final quarter mounted intense pressure on Police and were rewarded with a penalty corner. Salya Nsalbini took the responsibility this time around and his effort aimed at goal was stopped expertly by Richard Adjei but the followup clearance not going as expected and GRA awarded another penalty corner. Salya again converted and this time his effort hitting the goal post. Six penalty corners and no goal registered. The game ended 0-0 – GRA had moved closer to Africa with Police a step backwards.
The result however was received with much joy by Exchequers who had earlier beaten Legon Knights 7-0. A win in their last game and the bankers will be crowned champions of the 2018 Sapholda Hockey League.
The game however did not go as predicted. The Knights gave the bankers a tough time in the opening 10 minutes. A tactical defensive setup by Coach Jafaru thwarted the game play of Exchequers but not the resilient nature. 11 minutes into the game and the deadlock was finally broken. Former 3 time SWAG Hockey player of the year, the intelligent Elikem Akaba scored to give Exchequers the lead. Nyarko Nicholas increased the tally from a gifted effort by the Knights defence with Kumevor Selorm making it 3-0 few minutes later. Akaba grabbed his brace from a penalty stroke in the 25th minute. Dzotsi Eric and Arthur Ebenezer’s brace rounded up the win for the bankers.
In other men’s division match, Reformers beat Ark Men 2-0 to secure a 4th place finish in the league. Asmah Patrick and Lamptey Emmanuel both got their names in the scoresheet.
GRA ladies continued the dominance in the women’s category with a 2-0 victory over Extinguishers. Afriyie Lydia and Coffie Ernestina both scored to extend their unbeaten run in the league to nine games.
In the second match of the week in this division, Police ladies after failing to snatch the league trophy from GRA yet again, consoled themselves with a 11-0 win over Real Ambassadors ladies.
Cecelia Amoako scored a hat trick with a brace from Aggrey Faustina and Sarfoa Martha. Nafisatu Umaru, Fiador Evelyn, Konadu Jennifer and Boakye Serwaa also got their names on the scoresheet with a goal each.
In the third game, Mills Theresa’s 14th minute strike was enough to give Reformers a hard earned victory over Ark ladies.
In the youth category, defending league champions Real Ambassadors boys brushed aside the stubborn Tema Manhean to clinch another league title.
The champions were given their biggest test of the season by the Tema lads. The deadlock was nonetheless broken in the 26th minute. Annan Emmanuel with a glittering run, paved way through the Manhean defense before hitting the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Israel Annan for the opener.
Osmanu Razak added a brace to make it 3-0. His first from a reverse hit and the second a well rehearsed goal.
In the second game, the rejuvenated Kasoa Heroes were held to a goalless drawn game by Ark Boys.
In the masters category, Citizens International returned to winning ways with a 5-1 demolition of NDK Financiers. Bensah Daniel with a brace and a goal each from Akrofi Mante, Lebene Adjoyi and Teye Samuel for Citizens with Attipoe Richmond grabbing the consolation for NDK.
In the second game, Golden Sticks came back from 3-1 down to beat Multistix 4-3. Bernard Wilberforce gave Golden sticks the lead in the 2nd minute before Edmond Odamitey leveled for Multi five minutes later. Ato Hogan and Tarley Richard scored a goal each to give Multi a 3-1 lead.
Quarcoo Conrad scored a brace in the 23rd and 46th minute to help Golden sticks stage a comeback. With three minutes left to play, Jerry Ansah after going past goalkeeper Jonathan Abbey slotted home the winner with a ferocious hit into an empty post.