Story: Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi
KUMASI Asante Kotoko yesterday relived history, producing a miracle extraordinaire to account for a crafty Dolphins of Nigeria 4-1 (4-3 aggregate) and book a place in the last preliminary stage of the CAF Confederation Cup.
Not even the miraculous 5-1 victory over Egyptian giants, Zamalek, in the then Africa Clubs Championship in Kumasi in 1982 could surpass the manner in which the 4-1 victory over Dolphins was enacted at the Baba Yara Stadium.
An expectant crowd had waited with bated breath until the last twenty minutes when the players awakened them with a classy finishing power to fire three goals..
And what a carnival it was in Kumasi as thousands of fans, some of them with their shirts removed, took over the streets from Asokwa to Kejetia.
The match, which was rained off on Sunday when Kotoko were leading 1-0, had all the ingredients of a super match, and the partisan home crowd inspired the team so well that even when they conceded the first goal, they never ceased chanting.
Absolutely distraught about the tragedy that befell them, the Dolphins players fell on the turf one after the other after Angolan referee Jose Antonio ended proceedings.
Kotoko had entered the pitch with so much confidence, and by the 10th minute they had given clear signals of their resolve to make the best out of the match as they kept the opponents area busy.
Initiating most of their attacks from the left with outstanding left back Harrison Afful as the master architect, Kotoko woefully failed to make use of the opportunities that came their way while the agile Dolphins keeper, Chijioke Ejiogu, was excellent in post, denying Arhin Duah and Bekoe of two chances within the 11th minute.
The powerful Dolphins back line of Joseph Eyinofe, Emmanuel Godwin, Samaila Suleiman and Echezona Anyichie had a field day when Kotoko resorted to floating the ball around.
And when the Nigerians got the ball and knocked it around, Kotoko grew frustrated and committed elementary errors.
The stadium went dead silent when Dolphins who led 2-0 from the first leg shot ahead after 22 minutes.
A harmless shot by Wobo Owazuoke from the left saw defender Prince Anokye heading into his own net as a bemused Burkinabe international keeper, Soulama Abdulaye, who had moved out of the post watched on agonisingly.
It was a huge blow and Kotoko had to score four goals to qualify. Coach Bashir Hayford quickly took off the clumsy captain, Nana Arhin Duah, for Kwabena Yaro in the 26th minute but the much-expected chemistry was missing as Dolphins gained much confidence and tried to catch Kotoko on the break.
But a flurry of attacks from Kotoko in the dying minutes of the first half led to the Dolphins defence crumbling in the 45th minute as defender Samuel Inkoom, who had been busy all round, finished off from a heavily populated goalmouth.
The Porcupine Warriors dominated the early second half and with Eric Bekoe roaming all over the Dolphins area red-eyed, the Nigerian side back-pedalled but once again the goals were becoming difficult to come by.
Whilst Dolphins brought on Eze Nwobike for Wobo in the 52nd minute, Kotoko brought on crowd favourite, Stephen Oduro, for Francis Akwaffo in the 53rd minute.
Oduro’s presence brought the needed fluidity in the middle and the two copy-book passes he laid for the last two goals were symptomatic of the wealth of experience under his sleeves.
Bekoe, who had a brace, was on hand for his first goal of the afternoon, completing a great Kotoko attack from the middle in the 70th minute.
Coach Hayford made his last substitution, bringing on Ofosu Amoa for Francis Coffie in the 71st minute, and the diminutive player took over the left of attack.
Dolphins seemed to be running out of ideas and adopted delay tactics and brutal tackling to find a way out.
But Kotoko capitalised on the situation to fire home the third goal with Bekoe completing a penetrating pass from Oduro in the 84th minute.
The stadium once again erupted and the fans called for the last goal, to which Kwabena Yaro responded, with a minute to go to send Kumasi into a frenzy, that lasted deep into the night.
Line-up (Kotoko):Soulama Abdulaye, Samuel Inkoom, Harrison Afful, George Asare, Prince Anokye, Nii Adjei, Francis Akwaffo/Stephen Oduro, Jordan Opoku, Eric Bekoe,
Nana Arhin Duah/Kwabena Yaro, Francis Coffie/Ofosu Amoah
Dolphins: Chijioke Ejiogu, Victor Babayaro, Joseph Eyinofe, Emmanuel Godwin, Samaila Suleiman, Echezona Anyichie Kola Anubi, Wobo Owazuoke/Eze Nwobike, Prince Nnake,
Alhassane Dosso, Daddy Maurice