Yakubu rescues Kotoko

BY: Daniel Kenu

Yakubu Mohammed turned hero as Kumasi Asante Kotoko made a wobbly start to their CAF Confederation Cup campaign, beating Athletique Renaissance Aiglon (CARA) Brazzavile 1-0 in a drama filled game which saw Kotoko waste three penalty kicks against one by the visiting side in the first leg preliminary round tie at the Baba Yara Stadium yesterday.

Substitute Mohammed broke the deadlock in stoppage time after three failed attempts by his teammates to end an afternoon of torture for the Kotoko faithful as they dread the team’s fate in the return leg encounter in Brazzaville on February 21.

For the Congolese, the real hero was their midfielder turned goalkeeper, Massa Chansel, who saved all three kicks for his side but failed to title the balance of the game in their favour when he blew away a God-sent spot kick in the 75th minute, with his opposite number Felix Annan saving Chansel’s kick.

The packed stadium could not believe the drama as many stood in awe as three of the Kotoko's best takers, Saddick Adams (eighth minute), Amos Frimpong (59th) and Baba Mahama (69th) all wasted their kicks.

Indeed, when Senegalese referee Issa Sy awarded Kotoko their third penalty, the players were reluctant to step forward to the spot as it appeared the odds were against them. And when Mahama gathered the courage to kick,  the fans’ worst fear was confirmed as the midfielder shot the ball directly into the hands of Chansel, arguably the man of the match.

Nothing appeared to work for the home team despite the continuous cheers by the fans and the stadium announcer when Adams set the tone for misses.

Uncharacteristic of the striker he delivered a pile driver which bounced off the crossbar instead of his typical chip shot (panenka) which had worked perfectly last season.

That temporary setback did not, however, dampen the spirit of the aggressive Kotoko team as they pushed CARA to the back foot.  

The Congolese side played a rather relaxed game as Kotoko and played to a well rehearsed pattern, defending well and opening up when they needed to.

Enterprising Kwame Boahene grazed the top corner of the upright in the 32nd minute to bring the fans to their feet but they quickly had to return to their seats when Kivutuka Cabwey nearly put the visitors ahead from fast break.

Kotoko were unrelenting in the last five minutes to end the first half and nearly went ahead but a CARA denied Kotoko defender Wahab Adams a 44th minute goal when his goalbount shot was scooped off the goal-line.

The Porcupine Warriors laboured in vain until substitute Yakubu turned on the style rather late to pick the three points for Kotoko.

Ironically, Kotoko coach, Steve Polack, said he was satisfied with the team's performance, adding that despite the missed opportunities his players “played some good football.”'

"All those who missed the kicks were some best takers,  but in football some of these experiences happen,” he told the media in a post-match press conference.

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