GPL REVIEW (2): Aduana Broken, Lions Purr & Hearts Need Their Spark
The latest gameweek of the 2021/22 Ghana Premier League season thrilled but also taught us a few lessons, five of which Ink & Kicks highlights in our latest review.
FAISAL STORM & STUN DORMAA
King Faisal, to put it mildly, are threatening to tear up this season’s league. It’s not just the fact that a club that has traditionally struggled at the start of seasons now has two wins from its first two games; no, it’s not even that those wins have come against clubs that finished in the top four last term. It is — even more impressively — that Faisal, just two weeks into the new season, have already bagged the most stunning result of them all.
Winning in Dormaa-Ahenkro isn’t for everyone; only Wa All Stars (now Legon Cities), in the last five years, had beaten Aduana the team that has made that western town such a fortress. But Faisal went there and dared to score first (early, too), coming back to net twice more after Aduana equalised.
It was a reversal of the 3-1 loss Faisal suffered on their last visit, keeping them up there with city rivals Asante Kotoko as the only teams to have won on both matchdays. Faisal are expected to finish the season at/near the other end of the table, but even if they don’t win another game from the next 32, this victory — a collector’s item, truly — will remain a memory to cherish.
KOTOKO LEAVE IT LATE AGAIN
After waiting 90 weeks to see their beloved Asante Kotoko return to the Baba Yara Stadium, fans of the club present for the weekend’s much-publicised homecoming had to wait almost 90 minutes to celebrate what they’d really come to see: victory.
Sitting through the full length of a football game isn’t always the easiest thing, and maybe Kotoko have found a formula to not just win, but to keep us all hooked till the very end. Who’s complaining?
ACCRA LIONS HANDED REALITY CHECK
Life in a compound house can be stressful, especially when you have to deal with those relatively more accustomed to the peculiar challenges, and Premier League rookies Accra Lions learned that the hard way on Sunday evening when they took on Accra Sports Stadium co-tenants (or are they rather the land-lords? Land-guards?) Accra Great Olympics, in their first capital derby as a top-flight club.
The experience wouldn’t be remembered too fondly, with Lions downed by three Maxwell Abbey Quaye strikes — an early Goal of the Season contender, a penalty, and a composed finish that exploited a blunder by the opposing goalkeeper — that would have eroded any encouraging signs gleaned from their opening-day draw at home to Elmina Sharks.
With match-ups against the likes of Accra Hearts of Oak and Legon Cities still to come, Lions would do well to brace themselves for a hard-knock life. Like they say, Accra hard!
HEARTS NEED MOMENTUM — AND SOON
Hearts returned to Sogakope’s WAFA Park, not quite four months after their coronation as Premier League champions, looking for a win at a venue that had never given them any.
Hearts had the luxury of losing that insignificant final league game of the 2020/21 season, with the title already wrapped up and ready for delivery, but Samuel Boadu’s charges couldn’t afford to slip up this time — and yet they did.
Failing to beat WAFA, in and of itself, shouldn’t bring up too bad a headache for Boadu. In the context of Hearts’ next few games — a run of tough domestic fixtures and a tricky CAF Confederation Cup two-legged tie that climaxes with a date against in-form archrivals Kotoko — though, it is worrying that the Phobians aren’t already gathering some much-needed momentum.
That they scored at WAFA — for the first time ever, notably — would count as a positive; that they conceded, though, probably negates it. Hearts would likely be “unstoppable” when they hit their stride, and while a couple more draws won’t turn them into a bunch of modern-day Da Vincis, they need to start winning soon.
KONADU LOOKING TO TAKE LEGON CITIES TO THE MAX
The pomp with which Legon Cities made their grand entry into the league two seasons ago was quickly followed by the realisation that they probably weren’t as good as they looked. They struggled for several games before Bashir Hayford managed to steady the ship; and then they slipped again, narrowly avoiding relegation in the end.
But Cities have started this season with an aura that suggests things could play out a little differently this time. Boldly, they held off champions Hearts in the season-opener, before holding on to defeat Real Tamale United 3-2 on the following matchday. Cities are not just playing for points; they are also playing like they have a point to prove, much like their head coach.
Maxwell Konadu first came in to save Cities 2020/21 campaign, but is now keen to take the Royals to greater heights. That mission is quite personal, too, as Konadu’s own reputation took a hit when he was fired by Kotoko this time last season. Surely, he must have a burning desire to fix that, simultaneously justifying the worthiness of his re-appointment as assistant coach of the Black Stars.
Konadu, a one-time league winner and once the hottest property in the Ghanaian coaching business, is more than capable of achieving those targets. Cities, even if it’s only days yet, do look the part, too.