Accra Hearts of Oak coach Kim Grant has defused rising tempers of fans of the club over his decision to bench his first-choice goalkeeper Richmond Ayi in their Normalization Committee (NC) Special Competition Tier one semi final loss to Asante Kotoko, describing it a “tactical decision”.
Grant’s “tactical decision” to leave Ayi on the bench for former number one Ben Mensah to man the posts left several supporters of the club furious after Mensah failed to save a single kick during the shootouts. Pundits around the country have criticized the former Ghana international for his decision with some fans attributing the coach’s choice to spiritual or ritual connotations, but Grant insists his decision was guided by precautions and tactical eye.
“Ayi has been struggling with a knee injury, he got a kick against Uncle T (Stars) previously and he had a swollen knee and he’s recovered from injury but Ben is capable goalkeeper, he is very experienced, I trust all my players, whoever goes I know they’ll give hundred percent”, Grant told Focal sports on Monday.
The manager insists his number one would have been in goal should they make it to the final but for the semi final he was being cautious about the player’s knee situation as he wants every player to be hundred percent going into every game.
“Maybe if we’d got to the final Ayi would have been in goal in the final match but it was a tactical decision and also I was concerned about his knee so, I want every player to be hundred percent coming into a game physically, mentally and tactically, so it was tactical decision and I saw Ben played very well”, he said.
Asante Kotoko took an early lead through striker Abdul Fatawu at the Accra sports stadium before Christopher Bonney levelled from the spot in added time. Some Hearts of Oak fans believe Richmond Ayi wouldn’t have conceded such a goal by Fatawu but Grant thinks otherwise, saying his number two couldn’t have done anything about it.
“I saw Ben (Mensah) played very well, he couldn’t do anything about the goal and the penalty he almost saved one shot but unfortunately it went in and, a goalkeeper can be a hero and a player can be a hero as well, so unfortunately all their penalties were very good and he couldn’t save them”, he said.
Christopher Bonney’s late equalizer pushed the match into penalty shootouts and Asante Kotoko triumphed 5-4 to set up a final clash with Karela United, who against all odds, beat Ashanti Gold SC 1-0 in Obuasi to reach the final of the NC Special Competition tier one.
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