Riding high in April, shot down in May?
Yea, that’s how Marion Montgomery began ‘That’s Life’, her 60’s hit song (I like the Frank Sinatra version better, by the way), but Ghanaian club Asante Kotoko just delivered their own rendition of that famous line: riding high in February, shot down in February.
Only a week ago were the Porcupine Warriors soaring and basking in an outstanding feat at Aiyinase that condemned hosts Karela United to a first home loss of the 2020/21 Ghana Premier League season. The feeling was that this Kotoko team, after a tough start to the campaign, had finally arrived — at the summit of the league table, yes, but also at its own peak.
The first was true — for seven short days, at least — but the other notion just got shredded in some fashion, as Abdulai Gazale’s side was brought back to earth with a resounding thud on Sunday.
If Kotoko felt the manner of their demotion to the CAF Confederation Cup — from the more elite CAF Champions League — was cruel, Algeria’s ES Setif twisted the knife, bringing no flowers along on this Val’s Day visit to the team in red.
While Karela — perhaps inspired by the shock Kotoko pulled off at their Crosby Awuah Memorial Park fortress — won for the first time on the road this season, at Ebusua Dwarfs, to go back top of the league, Kotoko were all over the Accra Sports Stadium pitch, fighting for whatever they could snatch from these unyielding North Africans.
Not much, in the end.
The goals didn’t come early, but when they did, nearly 70 minutes in, it was Kotoko who got the first. Red-hot Kwame Opoku fed off skipper Emmanuel Gyamfi’s service to lethal effect, as he did the previous Sunday at Karela to set a famous victory in stone.
Here, though, Opoku’s goal didn’t produce that chime of finality. A dozen minutes later, Kotoko were on the ropes — nay, flat and firm on the canvas — after two quick-fire Setif goals through a pair of Mohammeds, Amoura and Kendouci.
It was an unusual position for Kotoko’s defenders — never prior this season had they conceded twice in a game — and the attackers couldn’t bail them out, as a rally for victory was reduced to a scramble for pride.
Kotoko knew Setif’s own backline would be close-fisted, but even when the latter gave a penalty away, it refused to surrender a second goal: Guinean import Naby Keita, usually ice-cold and clinical in such situations, failed to convert.
A 2-1 result leaves Kotoko facing almost certain elimination; a premature end that, like several others in recent memory, scrapes some more sheen off continental credentials that once sparkled.
Montgomery/Sinatra (pick your choice; you already know mine), in the classic referred to at the outset, did sing of getting “back on top in June,” but Kotoko don’t have to wait that long. They could, in fact, swing things back their way before February is over, yet they’d do well to look beyond next week’s second leg.
Hello, Hearts of Oak. . .
Enn Y. Frimpong — Ink & Kicks