Playoff final
Yesterday's playoff final failed to produce a winner during regulation time, forcing a tie-breaking penalty shootout

Back to Back: Ampem Darkoa Ladies retain Women’s Premier League title

Ampem Darkoa Ladies concluded their dominant season with yet another championship performance by defeating familiar foes Hasaacas Ladies 5-4 on penalties to win the 2022/2023 Malta Guiness Women’s Premier League title on Friday. 

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Their exceptional performance throughout the season was reflected in their victory in the playoff between the zonal champions, fighting back from a goal deficit to push the game into a tie-breaking shootout where they excellently executed their kicks for a perfect ending for the Techiman-based team at the Kwame Kyei Stadium at Abrankese in the Ashanti Region.

Clashing for the third consecutive season for the title decider, yesterday’s final between the two sides which have become the poster teams of women’s football in Ghana, served all the ingredients of a final clash between two great sides — nail-biting moments, drama, uncompromising exchanges — before the Techiman-based team came from behind to win. 

After a goalless first half that saw the game go back and forth, striker Doris Boaduwaa put Hasaacas Ladies, 2021 champions, in the lead with a powerful free header on the 60th minute, soaring above her markers to head in a perfectly taken corner kick.
 
Any hope of keeping that slim lead to the end was dashed as on the 84th minute, Ophelia Serwaa Amponsah stunned them by beating her marker, captain Linda Eshun, to slot a powerful strike past goalkeeper Grace Banwa.

Each side tried to take the lead again after the goal but it ended 1-1, pushing the game into extra time which also produced no winner, leaving the referee with no choice than to call for penalty kicks.

During the penalty kicks, Hasaacas Ladies missed their third kick while Ampem Darkoa converted all five goals to retain the title they won last season at the Accra Stadium, also against Hasaacas on penalties.

A victory that did not only make them the first side to beat Hasaacas Ladies back to back in the WPL final but also offered them another chance to represent Ghana at the CAF Women’s Champions League.

Different setting, same rivalry
With their dominance beyond their respective southern and northern zones well established in the national space, yesterday’s clash was one that had many more scores to settle.

With each side presented with a chance to have a go at the other again, it was the Nanamma from Techiman who got the upper hand and etched their names bolder in history.
Between the two teams, they share the seven Women’s Premier League titles from a rivalry that began in 2015, the Abrankese clash the fifth time the two sides were facing off in final challenges.

Stretching it to their earlier clashes, Hasaacas Ladies recorded their first win against Ampem Darkoa in the 2015 final at the Tema Stadium, and Nanamma in the following year beat them to win their first title at the Cape Coast Stadium.

The rivalry was renewed in 2021, with the Doo Ladies winning an emphatic 4-0 at the Madina Astro Turf Park in a year that also saw them beat them for the FA Cup before heading off to the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League to win silver.

A year later, Nana Adarkwah would stage a comeback, also with a double win, winning the WPL title 5-3 on penalties to also claim a ticket to the Champions League, though they could not replicate the success story of Hasaacas as they were beaten in the final of the WAFU Zone B competition.

On their third successive final clash, it was much more than the chance to prove one’s dominance over the other and be champions again but rather the higher stake of getting the chance to represent Ghana at the CAF Women’s Champions League again to continue their unfinished business in that campaign. 

Aside the title, the two coaches, who were in a neck-and-neck challenge for the Coach of the Year title had that also settled with their side’s win.

Perfect ending
It was a well-served final, a display of their best performance, further proof of their continued dominance of the game, and the perfect ending to a  successful season which saw quality in the competition from all participating teams. 

For the first time in the history of the competition, the winners of the zonal competitions were only known on the final day, Hasaacas Ladies needing a 1-0 win to beat Faith Ladies while Ampem Darkoa had to dig deep to shrug off the stiff challenge from contenders like Pearlpia, Dreamz and Prisons Ladies, to win their seventh title.

When it was all done for the season, the record spoke for itself.

Hasaacas Ladies on being crowned southern zone champions, won 12 games from the 18 Match Days, had three draws and three losses, scoring 38 goals and conceding 13. 

Ampem Darkoa, on the other hand, had a relatively difficult season, with 31 points, managing to win only nine out of 18 games, drawing four and losing five games. They, however, showed their scoring strength, recording 45 goals but similarly had a defence that conceded 21 goals 

Individual winners
Though she could not save any of the penalty kicks, Hasaacas Ladies’ Grace Buaodu Banwaa was adjudged the Best Goalkeeper of the Season, with relegated Fabulous Ladies’ striker, Princess Owusu, winning the top scorer of the season with 17 goals.

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Essiam Socrates’ Helena Alormenu won the Discovery of the Season, with the Best Defender award going to Martha Appiah of Berry Ladies.

With 14 goals, eight Most Valuable Awards (MVP) in 18 games, Prisons Ladies Helena Obeng was adjudged the Best Player. 

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