As the Porcupine Warriors continue to celebrate their 22nd league title capped with a Coronation match victory against Ashgold, Goal Ghana evaluates their performanceFEATURE
By Joel Hammond
Asante Kotoko emerged as champions of the just ended Ghana Premier League season, and in effect have successfully defended their title.
It all started when coach Mas-Ud Didi Dramani was unveiled as the new manager of the side much to the surprise of many, but as time will exemplify, the return turned out to be more positive than negative - Dramani will stay away from the team during pre-season and for the first two games of the season whilst he was away with the Black Maidens on national assignment.
THE PORCUPINE WARRIORS | Kotoko have won the league the 22nd time
How the team will cope without the coach became the major issue discussed by the connoisseurs of the game and supporter groups alike. Dramani reiterated earlier that “I am always in touch with my assistant and also I have drawn up a comprehensive pre-season plan, we also via the advent of technology have discussions over Skype.”
Kotoko began the season in a swashbuckling manner beating New Edubiase in the Super Cup by two goals without a reply from the Bekwai lads. It was the perfect complementary result and one which sent out a statement of intent that they were not ready to relinquish their title without a fight. Amidaus sojourned to Kumasi to meet the Porcupines when the league resumed, it was a done deal - Amidaus were to be buried in an avalanche of goals, but they held on to a rather surprising goalless draw against the league champions. The next three fixtures turned out to be just as identical to their opening game, and as usual the panic button was pressed almost becoming a recipe of self-distraction.
The board chairman Dr KK Sarpong said then, “We should be patient and give the coach time to work, the results we all desire for will surely come.” His words were soothing to the ears of all Porcupines alike and also restored calm. The first win of the season will come soon after, away to Medeama - Nti Boakye scored his third goal of the season to ensure that Kotoko picked up all three points, Arsenal also fell prey to the defending league champions (two consecutive wins for the Porcupines), the fixture of the round as Kotoko met Hearts in Kumasi, sadly, it failed to live up to its billing and ended in a draw. A topsy-turvy season for Kotoko who had failed to put in three consecutive wins but were able to keep within touching distance of leaders Medeama Sc shuffling between second and third for most parts of the first round.
Caf Champions League beckoned, with a fixture in Kumasi against Equatorial Guinean side Sony Nguema who were easily dealt with by Kotoko, but in the league they still had problems after drawing to Liberty at home, failing to hold their first half lead against King Faisal which ended in their first loss at Baba Yara in two years. Didi blamed fatigue as it was just days after going to the Maghreb to pull a draw against Bejaia, the fans will have none of that. The worse day of Kotoko's campaign in Africa will come on April 7 when they were knocked out on away goal rule by the Algerian outfit, most of the supporters had given up on the team right after the match.
The subsequent matches against Rainbow FC and Dwarfs were played in a virtually empty stadium, the chips were down, and morale in camp was at all-time low.
Kotoko on the redemption path
Dr Sarpong once again had to go on a regional tour to galvanise support for the team and that initiative inure to the benefit of the club. The supporters thronged the stadium once again; a crucial win against Berekum Chelsea brought back renewed hope of vision 22. Kotoko left their fortress Kumasi to play old foes Hearts of Oak in Accra - a game which ended in a pulsating one all draw and served as a reminder of the good old days when Kotoko and Hearts reigned supreme.
Medeama, Arsenals and Aduana were next, two draws and a win will ensure Kotoko moved up to the summit for the first time all season. They were dislodged a week after, but a crucial late winner versus Hearts of Lions by vilified Bansey will propel them back to the summit. The Ashanti derby was next and for the first time in over a decade the game was played outside the Ashanti region after Kotoko were banned from their home grounds for crowd violence, albeit, on a neutral ground attendance was impressive.
Chelsea leveled on points with Kotoko were cruising in their game after three minutes leading Aduana by a goal, the news will flood the Essipong Stadium and the Porcupine Warriors obliged and got the opener through returnee Ransford Osei. Ashgold equalised only for Michael Akuffo to score the winner for Kotoko - unbridled joy engulfed the oil city, Kotoko were home and dry, Amidaus was the only stumbling block between them and glory, but the Reds managed to negotiate that tight bend with a one zero victory over Amidaus - Chelsea lost away to Kpando to all but hand the league title to the Porcupines.
Follow Joel Hammond on Twitter