17 YEARS AGO: HEARTS WIN THE CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

17 YEARS AGO: HEARTS WIN THE CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Accra Hearts of Oak rose to the pinnacle of African Football by defeating Esperance de Tunis 3-1 at the Accra Sports Stadium on the 17th December 2000 to win the club’s only CAF Champions League Trophy.

After two heartbreaks in two years in 1977 and 1979, and waiting for almost two decades, Hearts finally had its hands on the Holy Grail of African Club football when they completed a home-and-away victory of Tunisian giants Esperance.

The Phobians, playing with a man down after Yaw Amankwah Mireku was red-carded, recorded a remarkable 2-1 victory over Esperance in Tunis, coming from behind to break El-Menzah’s 30-year-plus home invincibility record to put their feet firmly in the driving seat before the return encounter.

Accra Sports Stadium had been the cynosure of African football and Hearts did not disappoint. Esperance shocked the home fans by taking the lead just before the 20th minute of the game against the run-of-play through Hassan Gabsi, who headed the visitors in front by glancing the ball past Sammy Adjei at his near post. Hearts tried to fight their way back in the game but the magnitude of the occasion and stage fright nearly got to the players.

Esperance went into the break maintaining their narrow lead. Hearts still had the cup in one-hand having won in the first league but a second Esperance goal could change the club’s destiny.

Until this day a mystery, a teargas was fired into the crowd by an overzealous police officer who was trying to restore order in the stands and it nearly marred the beauty of the beautiful game that had unfolded. Play was halted for several minutes but when calm was restored, Hearts had finally regained their calmness and swagger.

Tunisian goalkeeper Choukri El-Ouaer had tried to self-immolate by cutting his face with a bottle, feigning histrionically that he was hit by an object in the crowd but thanks to the eagle-eye of the assistant referee, the Esperance no.1’s action was seen and it resulted in a red card for the keeper.

Hearts took advantage of their superiority and restored parity through Emmanuel Osei Kuffour. Before that, coach Cecil Jones Attuquayefio threw all his cards on the deck, bringing on Emmanuel Adjogu, Edmund Copson and Osmanu Amadu as the home side chased the game, not the result.

Osei Kuffour thundered home the equaliser as Hearts went on the ascendancy and within a few minutes later, he was at close range to bury home after Osmanu’s powerful drive cannoned off the crossbar.

Kuffour’s strike partner, Ishmael Addo, was not to be left out of the scoring as he controlled a lovely cross in the box with his chest before picking his spot to send the home fans into absolute delirium.

The duo had scored all the five goals in this tie as Hearts raced to a 5-2 aggregate win to claim its first prize in African Club football.

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