On the surface, it doesn’t look like much has changed: Karela United, with 33 points from 14 games, still have the best home record in this season’s Ghana Premier League.
But where they were once formidable, at their Crosby Awuah Memorial (CAM) Park grounds, Karela are now showing signs of vulnerability — and it’s not too hard to identify where the first cracks appeared.
Before Asante Kotoko made the long trip to Aiyinase in February, Karela had beaten all seven teams that had visited earlier in the season (by an aggregate 14-3 score), and this game, even against the league’s record champions, was expected to follow the same script.
Kotoko, however, tore up that script and stuffed it right down Karela’s throats, stealing a 2-0 result that made them the first away side ever, in five years, to win a competitive game at the CAM Park. It was an outcome that few saw coming, one that stunned Karela and their fans.
But the team reacted well, seemingly, even winning on the road — a rare feat, if you’re familiar with how they usually fare — for the first time this season, at Ebusua Dwarfs, on the very next matchday. At home, too, it looked like Karela had quickly recovered from the Kotoko setback, winning their next couple of games on the bounce.
All well and good, then?
Well, while not much has changed, Karela aren’t quite the same side. They needed a last-gasp goal to defeat Aduana Stars in the second of those two ‘recovery’ games, for instance, and another was required a month later to stop Ashanti Gold from running away with the spoils.
One more stalemate followed when Accra Hearts of Oak were hosted in the final week of April, before Karela returned to winning ways against Bechem United and Techiman Eleven Wonders.
On Friday, though, Aiyinase witnessed the latest episode in Karela’s patchy post-Kotoko home form, when Accra Great Olympics became the latest side to deny Evans Adotey’s team victory.
Karela scored first, courtesy of top-scorer Diawisie Taylor’s fifth converted penalty of the campaign, but Olympics levelled and, with that, eventually secured a draw.
From not dropping a point in seven home games before Kotoko’s shock-inducing blow, Karela have now won just half of their next matches at the CAM Park.
The overall picture doesn’t look exactly disastrous, but for a side not used to winning too often on the road themselves, Karela can’t possibly afford to shrug off this obvious depletion of their main strengths — especially in a league where much of a title challenge is built on home formidability.
Karela, until recently top of the table, have dropped to fourth, and while they haven’t yet slipped out of the race, there is a very real risk of falling farther behind if the relatively poor home form — by their own lofty standards — isn’t arrested and reversed.
Karela, clearly, lost something more than just three points and their pride when Kotoko came to town, and they need to find it — whatever it is.
Yaw Frimpong — Ink & Kicks