I started writing this piece, around noon on Wednesday, with an entirely different theme in mind: why another one-goal performance (they’d already had five this season), later in the day, wouldn’t be enough for Asante Kotoko in the first leg of their Caf Champions League first round qualifier at home to Sudanese giant Al Hilal.
I needn’t have bothered finishing it; gladly, in fact, I didn’t.
Kotoko, true to form, struggled for goals, but scoring even one here would have brightened their prospects a little, going into the daunting reverse. On this occasion — as happened seven days prior at the same venue against domestic opponents Accra Great Olympics — they scored none, losing 1-0.
The bigger concern, though, was the performance: as incoherent as anything we’ve seen of Kotoko thus far this season. Let’s put it this way: if Olympics skinned Kotoko a week ago, Hilal went much deeper, surgically dissecting the Porcupine Warriors and exposing their many ailments in bruising, brutal detail.
Kotoko hardly looked capable of the more sophisticated aspects of football, the sort of edge that gets the job done at this level; more worryingly, however, they appeared clueless about even the basic bits.
Christmas, though still some hours away, came early for the guests — a team of mainly Muslim players, I know, but they had a swell time, regardless — as Kotoko gifted balls, seemingly incapable of stringing a good few passes together. And when they managed to, carving out some sliver of opportunity, Kotoko barely threatened.
Kwame Opoku, responsible for almost half of Kotoko’s goal tally this term (just two, if you’re wondering), couldn’t deliver this time. William Opoku Mensah, his strike partner, huffed and puffed, but despite all that was made of his mid-week video chat with Liverpool star Sadio Mane, the parallels with the Senegalese begun and ended with that hair[line] and the dash of peroxide running through it.
And, oh, quick one: under which genre would you file Kotoko’s defence — comedy or tragedy?
Actually, you don’t really have to make a choice, because it comfortably fits into both columns. Had Hilal been a bit more precise — and but for a couple of last-ditch heroics — this could have been an even greater humiliation. For those who watched the game free on GTV Sports+, the experience was bad enough; to those who paid GHC 15 to endure that horror show on CEEK, please accept my heartfelt sympathies.
The game didn’t teach us anything we didn’t already know: Kotoko have great goalkeepers and little else. Even worse, they have now gone a full week without a substantive head coach. Resolving these glaring challenges could do Kotoko some good in Omdurman a fortnight later — or in the Caf Confederation Cup, where they are almost certain to spend the remainder of their continental adventures this season — but, please, don’t hold your breath.
I really don’t have many more sympathies to spare, you know.
Enn Y. Frimpong — Ink & Kicks