So what did we learn from Asante Kotoko’s Week 10 league game against Aduana Stars?
Well, quite a few things: that rap artiste Sarkodie isn’t dead as rumored; that the Ghana Premier League is truly capable of some truly sublime football; and that these two heavyweights don’t need to stew their meetings in unnecessary drama and tension to put on a proper show.
We knew the latter already, yes, but Sunday night’s encounter at the Accra Sports Stadium was only confirmation. The latest instalment of what has become one of the league’s more fiercely contested and eagerly anticipated games — only behind Kotoko’s eternal grudge match with archrivals Hearts of Oak — over the last decade duly delivered.
It ended just the way the last did — with a brilliant Samuel Bioh effort sealing a narrow win for Aduana — but, thankfully, the beginning differed. Here, both teams resorted to no silly ‘tactics’ — not in public, at least — and started with the full set of players on each side, before playing out two entertaining halves.
There was some post-match talk, especially on social media, about this being Kotoko’s best performance of the season, and there was much evidence on the pitch to support such a claim. The fact that they came away with nothing to show for all that industry, though, wouldn’t make the game as memorable as it should have been for the Porcupine Warriors.
Aduana came with a plan — one head coach Paa Kwesi Fabin wasn’t ready to divulge post-match— to frustrate Kotoko’s attacking intentions, and it worked a treat. Kwame Opoku, the man likeliest to finish off Kotoko’s moves, had little going for him, while the hosts lost two starters — Habib Mohammed and Patrick Asmah — to injury.
On a day that began with Kotoko in third, they turned up finely tuned to finally reach the table’s summit this term — fair reward for all the work that had gone into recovering from a poor start. They only had one job — win — but, as all the clubs that flanked Kotoko in the top seven slots ahead of the weekend’s round of games found out, that task was never quite straightforward.
Instead, it was Aduana that snatched victory — the first time either of these teams has won a game at the other’s home, though with a twist that might make this pill less bitter to swallow for Kotoko — through substitute Bioh, who rifled a shot high past Razak Abalora.
It’s a result that narrows the upper half of the log a little more, with just four points between leaders Karela and Elmina Sharks in mid-table; Aduana are now, in fact, level on points (16) with five other clubs currently sharing second spot (including Kotoko themselves).
Pretty tight, huh?
The outcome, of course, might have been different had any of Kotoko’s penalty shouts — with varying degrees of legitimacy — been granted by referee Emmanuel Tampuri.
Still, for some Kotoko fans, despite the fact that they were the better side, their team’s failure to win its biggest game yet suggests that the time for appointing a substantive head coach is overdue.
That may be true, but the process shouldn’t be rushed by this setback, no matter how badly it stings. Interim boss Johnson Smith has steered the team quite well; this, remember, is only his first loss in six league games.
And in a competition that tests a coach’s mettle most intensely by his record on the road, Smith — whose lack of the required certification rules him out as an option for the permanent role — has aced it with a win and two draws.
The outcome of his next three games — a lineup that features fixtures away to Ashantigold and Karela, two of the four clubs currently above Kotoko — before the team momentarily switches focus to continental duties, could be a more genuine indicator of how soon a substantive replacement for Maxwell Konadu would be needed at the helm.
There, really, is nothing to worry about — for now, anyway.
Enn Y. Frimpong — Ink & Kicks