Aduana Stars didn’t just need to keep up the pace at home against AS Vita Club in Group A fixture of Caf Confederation Cup last Wednesday, they needed to make a convincing statement. And, thanks in large part to Yahaya Mohammed and Bright Adjei, they achieved that with a 2-1 win in the first of two huge tests on the road in the space of ten days.
The Ghanaian champions have suddenly changed the permutations as to who can make it out of the group or not, following victory in the first leg that moved them up to second place on the log with four points, just one behind leaders Raja Casablanca after they were left crawling without a win in their first two games.
Of course, the win came with a huge price and risk. Former Hearts of Oak and Inter Allies boss Kenichi Yatsuhashi was brought on board at the eleventh hour to replace Yussif Abubakar who had fallen out with the club's owner Nana Agyemang Badu II and the decision amazingly paid off.
The Japanese coach had barely a week ahead of his first game and was under a huge pressure to succeed. He was even welcomed with a training ground bust-up between striker Derrick Sasraku and assistant coach Tandoh.
The striker faced the wrath of the new boss as he was sacked from the team's camp and handed an indefinite suspension since his actions could've jeopardized preparations.
That was a bold decision from Kenichi, judging from the fact that Sasraku had always been influential in Aduana's run to this stage and especially with Nathaniel Asamoah no more available due to the expiration of his contract. He had only Yahaya Mohammed, Bright Adjei and Sasraku to choose from for the 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation he is widely known for prior to the game.
Another convincing performance would prove they have what it takes to challenge for one of the two slots to the next stage.
Aduana, who have failed to win or draw any of their away games in Caf competitions, could afford to send only 15 players due to financial constraints, limiting the options of the coach in his bid to end the club's sorry sequence of results. They are yet to receive their portion of the appearance fees from Caf due to the impasse between Ghana FA and government as the latter has placed an indefinite suspension on football.
However, that's not enough excuse for Kenichi to lose the game. He is expected to deploy a 3-5-2 system and variation to 4-5-1 when under attack, with two centre-backs of Farouk Mohammed and Paul Aidoo, as well as a midfield comprising of one holder in the shape of Noah Martey, one shuttler, with an interchangeable duo Yahaya and Adjei leading the line.
Obviously, goalkeeper Joseph Addo will retain his place in post ahead of Tijani Ahmed despite his recent howlers after Kenichi revealed that he has been spoken to improve his performance.
Thankfully, the entire players of Aduana, according to right-back Caleb Amakwaa, are aware of the task ahead.
"This game is obviously like decider for us (the players) because we need the points badly since we have only one game left at home," Amankwaa told Goal.
"We managed to win the first leg in Ghana which brought us to second place on the log so we wouldn't want to go down this time. Our target is to qualify to the next round of the competition so we must try to achieve a double or at least pick up a point.”
Any outcome aside a defeat on Sunday and a win over Asec Mimosas in the next game at home, will all but put one of Aduana's feet above the qualification line ahead of the last game against Raja in Morocco.