Emmanuel Gyamfi, Maxwell Baakoh and Abdul Fatawu Safiu scored to hand Ghanaian side Asante Kotoko a 3-2 away triumph over Coton Sport Garoua of Cameroon in the Caf Confederation Cup playoff round on Sunday.
The home side's consolations, though, came from Daouda Kamilou and Lambert Gueme Araina.
Below are some observations from the first-leg fixture at Stade Militaire de Yaounde:
Midfield looks better
In Kotoko's last game in Africa prior to Sunday's match, one of their biggest concerns was about their midfield, which failed to hold its own against an opponent they were expected to run over. The 2-1 win over Kariobangi Sharks of Kenya in the first round second leg in Kumasi exposed the Porcupines' midfield men badly, prompting coach Charles 'CK' Akonnor into a forced admission. On that day, the unit comprised Richard Senanu and Jordan Opoku. Against Coton Sport, Opoku's place was taken by former Gefle IF man Kwame 'Conte' Bonsu. By the performance in Cameroon, the midfield duo deserve applause for the massive improvement.
Akonnor is working
After two games in Africa this term, the main concerns of Kotoko were their obvious lack of match fitness, their weightless midfield, generally uninspiring performances and shyness in front of goal. Against Coton Sport, however, there was agreeably an improvement in all these areas, although there is still more room for improvement. By the performance and the result, we can give Akonnor a pat on the back for his hard work so far.
Yacouba still napping
Burkinabe Songne Yacouba was not only Kotoko's star-man going into Africa, but also the player with the most expectations. An ailment and consequently some time on the sidelines just before the start of the campaign in November meant the striker entered the competition with several questions marks over his match fitness. Sunday's game was his third game, and yet again, he draw blank. Considering he was the main source of goals for Kotoko before his setback, three games without a strike leaves much to be desired.
Kotoko present statement of intent
Considering the situations under which Kotoko stepped into Africa, many have given them little a chance to make an impact. Competitively inactive since June 6 last year, a new coach assuming duty in just October, signing of about 10 new players to augment their squad few weeks to start of the competition and their underwhelming history in the championship in recent times, you would not be exactly wrong to think their 2018-19 campaign would be nothing but just to swell up the number of competing teams. But by Sunday's stunning win - the first time they have netted three goals in Africa since 2002 and a result which puts them on the brink of making the group stage - Kotoko have shown that their 2018-19 campaign is actually no joke.
Coton Sport battle not over
Kotoko may have scored three away goals to win Sunday's first leg but the playoff challenge is certainly not over. In the second leg, Coton Sport will come blazing on all cylinders, knowing too well nothing but a good win on the road will send them into the group stage. By the 3-2 loss on Sunday, the Cameroonians have nothing to lose and everything to play for. This could pose problems for Kotoko, more so considering how they struggled the last time they faced a similar situation (the second leg home clash with Kariobangi Sharks of Kenya in the first round). Akonnor's outfit must not get ahead of themselves yet, but rather tread with caution.