Ghanaian champions Hearts of Oak secured one foot in the group phase of the CAF Confederation Cup after recording a 2-0 triumph over Algerian side JS Soura in the first leg of final play-off at the Accra Sports Stadium on Sunday.
A goal either side of the halftime break ensured the Phobians get a much needed advantage over 10-man JS Soura.
Midfielder Ibrahim Salifu opened the scoring for the Ghanaian giants in the 17th minute with a diving header before second half substitute Agyenim Boateng rounded off the scoring in the 71st minute to hand the Ghanaian club a first win in six games.
Hearts of Oak coach Samuel Boadu made four changes to the team that lost 2-0 away at Adhanti Gold SC last weekend.
Striker Agyenim Boateng, midfielders Emmanuel Nettey and Patrick Razak as well as defender Robert Addo were dropped while youngster Salim Adams, midfielder Afriyie Barnieh, Mohammed Alhassan and Isaac Mensah started the game in a 4-4-2 formation.
After missing some half chances early in the game, Hearts finally broke the deadlock through inspirational midfielder Salifu Ibrahim.
The former Eleven Wonders star boy connected a sweetly delivered cross from Afriyie Barnieh with a diving header in the 17th minute to open the scoring.
Striker Kofi Kordzi came close to doubling the Phobians lead before the break but his effort was brilliantly saved by Souara goalkeeper.
After the break, Agyenim Boateng was thrown into the game to replace goalscorer Salifu as Hearts pushed men forward for more goals.
Eight(8) minutes after the restart, Afriyie Barnieh had the opportunity to double Hearts’ lead but he surprisingly fluffed the opportunity.
Hearts finally found an opening to score the second goal by the 71st minute with a team work goal.
Former Liberty Professionals duo Ansah Botchway and William Denkyi combined well to set up substitute Agyenim Boateng through and the striker calmly finished it off.
Hearts had another chance to extend their lead three minutes later after JS Saoura goalkeeper Zakari Saidi was shown the exit after picking his second yellow card of the day following a rush tackle on Daniel Afriyie outside the box.
Although Aymen Mouyet replaced him, Hearts could not make the numerical advantage count as Souara held on to end the game with two-goal deficit ahead of the reverse fixture next weekend.