Tuesday, July 8, 2008


KUMASI Asante Kotoko journey into Africa this week minus head coach Bashir Hayford but signs of a successful season still remain distinctly promising with the sharp-shooting Eric Bekoe, top-scorer in the just-ended local league, leading the fray.
Bekoe’s 17-goal haul in 22 appearances separates him from the rest and should be the driving force in Kotoko’s quest for a continental golden fleece for the first time in 25 years.
Management is preventing Hayford, who has fashioned the team's success up to this stage, from leading the team to Libya to play Al-Ittiyad in the first leg final qualifier of the CAF Confederations Cup, insisting that he remains at home to prepare for the burial and funeral rites of his late wife. The mantle thus falls on assistant coach, Johnson Smith, to lead the team in search of a good result in Libya.
Coming barely a week after wrapping up the league championship, Asante Kotoko look poised for a performance of their lives in what is expected to be a highly charged game against Ittiyad.
Against the backdrop of a 3-0 loss by the Greens of Libya to the Black Stars in a World Cup qualifier in Kumasi recently, Ittiyad who have 14 players in the Libya national team will attempt to go for revenge of a sort against Asante Kotoko.
Even so, as they go for that revenge, their ultimate focus is on qualifying for the group stage of the Confederations Cup.
Ittiyad will be led in attack by national players Osama ben Saleh and Al Khalifa.
The two players were a delight to watch when Libya played the Black Stars in Kumasi, and playing in front of a partisan home crowd they will be motivated to go for the kill.
Midfielder Ahmed Osman also provides the needed support for the front men, and it will be interested to see how he fights it out with the likes of Jordan Opoku in that department.
But in Asante Kotoko, Ittiyad will be meeting a side so determined to sweep every cup before them this season.
Since the Sylvester Asare Owusu-led management was put in place, they have showed signs of sweeping every opposition aside.
Throughout my interactions with him since his second coming to the club as CEO, Sylvester has never hidden his intention to lead management to set a record by guiding the club to its first continental silverware after 1983 when they last won the then Africa Clubs Championship.
The newly-crowned Ghanaian champions employ a wealth of budding talents and some experienced legs to prosecute their agenda.
This impressive mix will pump up so much energy to force the Libyans to tumble in front of thousands of home fans in Tripoli.
Expectation from the much-vaunted attack led by Eric Bekoe is very high, and they cannot afford to fail to do what they know best.
Defender Godfred Yeboah who was loaned to Wa All Stars at the start of the second round of the national league has been drafted back into the team and will blend his experience with the youthful power of Harrison Afful, George Asare and Samuel Inkoom to give the right protective cover to Eric Nii Baah in post.

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