A late penalty converted by Guinean import Naby Keita earned Asante Kotoko the derby spoils in a 2-1 win over Hearts of Oak on Sunday at the Accra Sports Stadium.
The Phobians failed to make their recent surge in form count as the Porcupine Warriors looked compact and tactically superior but the overall quality was bog-standard.
But Edawrd Odoom’s men were the first to make a dangerous move after Emmanuel Nettey profited from a back header and put his leg through, but his touch inside the box went over the frame.
Esso pulled the trigger from inside the box, but it was an off-target delivery with the outside of his boot. He had a marker closing him down and that made it difficult.
Kotoko managed to recover and started connecting passes. It confused the Phobians a bit as their work rate paid off after winning a free-kick.
Justice Blay scored the go-ahead goal in the 11th minute with a blistering header on an Augustine Okrah free-kick which flew past goalkeeper Richard Atta.
Midfielder Mudasiru Salifu made another slalom run from deep and skipped past two players before unleashing a low shot but it was wide.
Hearts of Oak hit back after 26 minutes when left back Ovuka whipped in a cross from the left after a marauding run.
His effort found Kofi Kodzie who connected with his head from inside the box but it was wide.
Just after the half hour mark, Hearts came threatening when an out-swinging free-kick from the right flank was headed down powerfully but goalkeeper Kwame Baah picked it up coolly
Kodzie fired the warning shot again after he was allowed room to do a 360 turn and the burly striker unleashed a powerful strike which was rising.
There was a huge scare just at the end of the first half when Baah spilled a free-kick inside his area but the Kotoko player were quick to clear their lines.
Hearts of Oak came back from the break on top and started dictating the pace.
On 53 minutes, Nettey delivered a perfect pass which set Afriyie on the attack but a sliding tackle from Wahab Adams halted him and the Phobians won a free-kick. Kodzie stood behind the ball and delivered a poor one.
Nettey again threaded a defence splitting pass which found Kodzie inside the box but Adams threw himself onto the shot at goal and deflected for a corner.
The equalizer came after 64 minutes through a free header from Joseph Esso after an initial attempt at come off the side post.
Kotoko threaten with an Okrah free-kick which dipped on the roof of the net. After that, head coach Maxwell Konadu introduced 16-year-old Matthew Cudjoe.
Goalkeeper Attah saved Hearts of Oak from conceding with a top-class stop to tip Emmanuel Gyamfi’s header over for a corner kick.
Credit must go to the teenager Cudjoe who brilliantly dribbled past Mohammed Alhassan to hit the bar line before connecting with his right foot to find Gyamfi inside the box.
Cudjoe again was the chief architect after his goal-bound shot struck the extended arm of defender Mohammed Alhassan and referee Emmanuel Eshun pointed to the spot.
Keita took the ball and converted expertly to beat Attah behind the stick.