Asante Kotoko lifted the Ghana Premier League title for a record 22nd despite drawing 0-0 with Berekum Arsenal at home on Sunday with four matches to go.
As a result the Porcupine Warriors have earned themselves a place in next year’s CAF Champions League. MTNFootball.com looks at the decisive factors in Kotoko’s championship success, their first in four years.
Many reckon that for a team to be as successful as Kotoko have been, you’ll definitely need those memorable moments which the Porcupine Warriors did so they didn’t disappoint in that regard. That epic 2-2 home draw with New Edubiase quickly springs to mind.
At 2-1 down, Kotoko looked set to lose their first home game against Emmanuel Baffour’s Edubiase with just seconds left to end the game. From nowhere popped up Richard Yeboah to snatch a point, perhaps not deserved, but they still got anyway with it.
One other fond memory will also be the spectacular ending in the big Ghanaian derby at home to Hearts of Oak.
The Phobians looked to have done their usual by canceling a first half Kofi Nti-Boakye header through Mahatma Otoo who scored in added time through a well struck free kick just outside Kotoko’s penalty area. But just like they stole their opponent’s famous slogan for a while (Never say die) Michael Akuffo stung Hearts with a 30-yard thunderbolt to throw the packed Baba Yara Stadium into wild jubilation.
Undeniably one of the most memorable scenes this campaign and they (Kotoko) would perhaps look at these incidents as say it was the defining moment in their title charge.
This is Kotoko’s first trophy under the ex Ghana international in just under a year of taking over from Serbian Bogdan Korak.
Konadu certainly a leading contender for the coach of the year award was plucked from virtual obscurity from All Stars to lead the Ghanaian giants in a decision that many regarded as highly risky and boy how it has paid off.
Kotoko have suffered only two defeats in the 26 games played. A pair of tough wins in particular over Berekum Chelsea and Hearts of Oak at home confirmed Kotoko as the best team in the country and their coach’s reputation for smart tactical football.
Not many remember now that only a late revival under Korak saved the club from getting relegated last season. The Serbian soon had to depart and that ushered in a relatively inexperienced Konadu who brought in unknown players from the lower divisions.
One might be tempted to think there that it will take certainly at least one season to begin to churn out results from the lads and that opponents like free spending Berekum Chelsea and Medeama were going to bulldoze their way through another or a first league triumph respectively.
However, Chelsea’s domestic form slipped as they progressed in the Champions League and Medeama dropped too many points at the beginning of the campaign and was left with a lot to do in playing catch up.
Rivals Hearts of Oak, who came closest to mounting a serious chase on Kotoko, were tired in the second half of the season which of course led to the sacking of their Serbian coach Nebojsa Vucicevic. Kotoko by then had taken too much advantage of the situation by the time the Phobians seemed to have gotten back on their feet though struggling recently.
Kotoko have been unusually quiet in the market of late with their new policy of bringing in unkonown talents in every transfer window has paid off in spades. They captured the likes of Baba Abdul Rahman, Yahaya Mohammed (though injury-prone), Michael Anaba, buys that have subsequently proved to be highly beneficial.
Konadu also came in with his own unknown buys with the likes of Ben Acheampong, Richard Yeboah and Prince Baffour.
They have all had significant contributions to make in the lead up to clinching this season’s title.
With Chelsea, Medeama and Hearts suffering from unsettled squads for a variety of reasons, Kotoko enjoyed a stroke of good fortune. Influential Ahmed Toure and departed Nathaniel Asamoah were successfully replaced by the likes of Ben Acheampong, whose progress has been noticeable and Kofi Nti-Boakye who has all of a sudden found his scoring boots again.
What also proved vital for Kotoko was the contribution of goals from all departments of the team; from defence through the midfield to the strikers have all contributed their bit. As a result, not too much pressure is placed on non-scoring forwards which have rarely happened in the course of the season.