Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kotoko-Etoile cliffhanger Saturday...CAF CUP DREAM NOT YET OVER (GRAPHIC SPORTS, BACK PAGE)

KUMASI Asante Kotoko were left to reflect on their horrible away performance once again when they went down 0-2 to JS Kabylie, a club they had beaten 3-1 a week earlier.
On Saturday they have to convince themselves, and indeed their legion following, that the CAF Confederation Cup dream is not over yet for them.
When they face up against Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel in the penultimate group game at the Baba Yara Stadium, the temptation is for the pessimists to dismiss the chances of the Ghanaian side as grim, but the ability to negotiate the sharp curve is not beyond the reach of Kotoko.
Needless to comment, the match will be a thriller, with Kotoko determined to go for as many goals as possible while Etoile attempt to gain at least a draw to give them a cushion for a berth in the final.
But it appears Kotoko will be the hungrier of the two as pressure mounts on them from their impatient fans to perform.
Kotoko’s management are taking the match very seriously and have therefore reduced the rates to entice a bigger crowd to cheer the team on to victory.
Etoile, who beat Asante Kotoko 2-0 in the first leg in Sousse, will be content to settle for at least a draw, but Kotoko, looking for a rebound from the first defeat, can never compromise.
Etoile’s Nigerian striker, Emeka Okpara, who fetched the two goals in Sousse is available for the Kumasi game and could provide a sterner test for the home defence.
It remains a fact that the Tunisian side are one of the glamorous sides in Africa but presently they do not look like the dreadful side of the past.
Like the other sides in the group, Etoile have been found wanting away and there is the likelihood that they will fall once again.
But it would be extremely foolish to dismiss the Tunisians champions, for they have the strength and talent to fire on all angles.
Victory may not be beyond the reach of Kotoko, but the question is their ability to win heavily as teams keep winning their home matches.
Their Achilles Heels has been the succession of wasteful chances, some of which are very difficult to believe.
Kotoko’s shortcomings at the back were laid bare in the dying minutes of the game against JSK when they sat back for the visitors to fetch a goal with only seconds to go. On account of this, coach Bashir Hayford has the huge task of crafting a back line that could hold their won against any threat from the Etoile attack.
A back four of Inkoom, Osei Kwame, Ofosu Appiah and Daniel Nii Adjei should be strong enough to ward off any threat.
They will also need the services of the likes of Osei Kuffour, Eric Bekoe and Jordan Opoku to exert the needed pressure on the Etoile attack.
Nothing but a very good win can bring hope to the Kotoko family and, indeed the entire Ghanaian football public, as the Porcupinr warriors remains the only hope for continental glory this year.

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