Monday, September 1, 2008


KUMASI Asante Kotoko went through 90 minutes of hell before subduing a crafty El-Merreikh 1-0 at the Baba Yara Stadium to revive their fortunes in the CAF Confederation championship.
Pre-match warnings from El-Merreikh appeared real and for once, it appeared Kotoko were going to drop points at home until the magic of Eric Bekoe prevailed to find a space past excellent keeper Akram El-Habi Salah.
The threat from the Sudanese side was ever present, and as they produced great technique in the game, it brought to the fore the task ahead for Kotoko as the championship progresses.
The game started slowly but dramatically came to life in the second minute when a cracker of a shot from Daniel Nii Adjei came off the post.
It looked as if the game was going to swing in Kotoko's favour but El-Merrick had other ideas.
They created a huge barrier at the back, with Mohammed El-Kheder, Saad Atiya Abdallah, and Musah El-Tayeb in excellent form, while the midfield knocked the ball round trying to tease the Kotoko defence out.
Initiating most of their attacks from the left side of defence where Samuel Inkoom operated with gusto in the first half, Kotoko found themselves with two great opportunities in the 9th and ninth minutes but Kwabena Yaro who looked raw, and Eric Bekoe wasted them.
With Merreikh appearing stronger, they pushed forward and should have taken the lead in the 21st minute but Eldir Omar's shot at goal was headed off the goal line by defender Ofosu Appiah.
A quintessential performer all afternoon, Appiah, the former Heart of Lions defender, scored full marks with a similar clearance, this time with the leg, in the 58th minute.
Kotoko turned on the style on restart, with Inkoom shifting to his more favourite right back position. He drove down the right flank just on resumption and flighted in a cross, which the keeper Akram pushed to corner with difficulty.
Prowling fruitlessly in the area of the visiting team, Bekoe tried to apply the theatrics but the no-nonsense Gabonese referee Gil Sabastian Mdume ignored him.
The midfield action appeared evenly fought, but El-Merreikh used their height and physique to win most of the aerial balls.
With the two sides making substitutions, they kept squandering the chances and coach Bashir Hayford was seen screaming with fury from the sidelines.
The introduction of Stephen Oduro and Kwadwo Poku into the game changed the going for Kotoko and even then the goals were difficult to come by until Bekoe fired Kotoko in front.
As the embers of the game kept dying out, Kwadwo Poku wreaked havoc down the left side of attack and located Bekoe just inside the box.
The striker turned 45 degrees before slipping the ball past keeper Akram. That was in the 87th minute and even though El-Merreikh fought frantically for the equaliser, they were kept at bay by Kotoko.

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