The Mantse Derby: can the Dade Boys dent their city rivals’ title hopes?
Every major footballing city in the world has a great local rivalry, and some of those rivalries, simply transcend the walls of a stadium, and often rarely have anything to do with beautiful football.
In Italy, there is the Rome derby, contested between AS Roma and Lazio and in Scotland, there is the Old Firm derby between former European heavyweights Rangers and Celtic, who play each other around half a dozen times a season.
As the domestic Premier League returns this weekend for Match-Day 25 following a month’s break, two of the biggest teams in the capital city, will lock horns in a game with far-reaching consequences. There couldn’t have been a more interesting fixture, than a game involving the two biggest clubs in Accra, to get the attention of Ghanaians refocused in the local league; especially following the onset of the new European football season.
What makes the fixture more interesting, is the fact that both teams need the three maximum points on Sunday. A win for Great Olympics will take them to 29 points, and move them closer to Premier League safety. Assuming both Tema Youth and Liberty Professionals, lose their matches this weekend, a victory will automatically lift the Dade Boys out of the bottom three.
Likewise, a victory for the Phobians will increase their chances of challenging for their first league title in eight years. Three points against their city rivals will close the gap to the top to three points, with five games to the end of the season.
The contrasting fortunes of the two teams makes for an intriguing derby at the Accra Sports Stadium, which is currently been used by both sides as their home-ground. Aside footballing reasons, there is also pride and bragging rights at stake --- the right to be called the kings of the capital, even if that does not end up in winning the battle against relegation, or the league title at the end of the season.
Since 1999, these clubs have been through 21 great battles, with Hearts of Oak having the edge with 10 wins, eight draws, and three defeats. It is worthy of note that the two have been into many other clashes since the mid ‘90s.
The two teams go into Sunday's encounter with so much separating them in the league standings, but so much to play for, also. The Dade Boys are second from bottom, with 26 points after 24 matches, while their city rivals are third on 40 points.
On goals scored and conceded, Hearts of Oak holds an upper hand over Oly Dade-Oly Rosalinda. The first leg of this encounter ended 2:1 in favour of the Phobians.
However, when it comes to current form from the last five games, there is nothing to separate both teams. Olympics have won two, lost two and drawn one out of their last five games, while their opponents have also recorded two wins, two losses and a draw from the last five games.
Potential game winners for Great Olympics include star performer, Abel Manomey, who has been one of the brightest spots in the league, and Osah Bernardino Tetteh and Tahiru Mohammed. If they are to win this weekend, much will depend on these three.
On the part of the Phobians, they have Winful Cobbinah, Patrick Razak and Thomas Abbey. On a good day, these three can be a nightmare for any defence in the league.
The two coaches
Great Olympics Coach Tom Strand has proven his technical dexterity and knowledge in the league with a few clubs over the last couple of years. Though, all has not gone particularly well for the Swedish coach, since he took over last April, there have been occasions where he exhibited good tactical awareness.
On the opposite side is Frank Nuttall, Hearts of Oak's coach, who has had somewhat of a mix season so far. Getting to end of the first round of the season, he was able to find a winning formula for his side, however, things have become more complicated in the second.
Just like his opposite number, lack of consistency has weighed down early season expectations of Hearts of Oak ending their eight-year trophy-less run.
As things stand, it is very difficult to pick between the two coaches, although things appear in favour of the Mr. Nuttall. It will take only the 90 minutes of action to determine the winner.
What is, however, clear is the fact that a defeat is undesirable for both teams, but as rivals, the sweetest results on Sunday will be for one to undo the other within the stipulated 90 minutes of play time.
All in all, it can get pretty unpleasant at times, and it is certainly not a game for those of a nervous disposition. However, despite the two sides not being at par, it is one of the most thrilling and absorbing football games one is ever likely to witness in the domestic league.
Many times, often due to the fractious nature of the fixture, the games have been dull but the football experience will be much the poorer for not seeing this event live should you get the opportunity.
So, will the Accra Sports Stadium be painted in blue and white, or the rainbow colours after the game?