Caf Confederation Cup: Asante Kotoko 1-1 Al-Hilal: Five things we learned

Goal Ghana
Goal highlights some observations from Sunday’s clash between the Ghanaian club and their Sudanese counterpart in the continental championship

A late Songne Yacouba strike spared Kotoko's blushes in what ended in a 1-1 home draw with Sudan's Al-Hilal Omdurman in the Caf Confederation Cup group stage on Sunday.

The goal may have salvaged a point for the Porcupine Warriors at Kumasi's Baba Yara Sports Stadium, but it may ultimately prove inadequate to steer the club into the next round of the competition.

A win could have well confirmed Kotoko's place in the quarter-finals ahead of what is now a must-win on the final matchday away at Zesco United.

Below were some observations from the Kotoko-Hilal showdown:

Yacouba's influence out of the roof 
With two goals and five assists in the Confederation Cup campaign, Yacouba unarguably stands as the Porcupine Warriors' most dangerous man. Not only does he contribute (to) goals but his overall work-rate in each of the games, even those in which he was wasteful, stand unrivalled.

His Sunday's performance, capped with a late goal, was another reminder of how influential the former Stade Malien man is for CK Akonnor's outfit. 

Kotoko look overwhelmed 
On one side, Kotoko's calm approach to Sunday's game was a bit surprising considering the fire-spitting showing against Nkana FC last week, in which they scored three goals inside 27 minutes. On another hand, the approach was quite understandable taking into account the number of fitness concerns they had coming into the game. Whatever the situation really is, one thing seems apparent: Kotoko's squad is getting overwhelmed, be it with regards to tiredness or fitness.

The Porcupines looked short on energy and enthusiasm in the first half, and it wasn't surprising at all that they fell behind on 33 minutes. Even in the second half when they tried taking the game to the visitors, Akonnor's charges simply lacked the spirit to back their ambition. Now that's worrying, considering the task ahead. 

Akonnor lost the tactical battle 
Aside from the laid-back approach, which was a major problem, Akonnor's tactical choice of players didn't work out too well as it did against Nkana. 
While right-back Augustine Sefah was a forward threat against the Zambians - forcing the opposition to remain in their own half for the most part - captain Amos Frimpong, who was given the nod on Sunday, offered little on the offence. Defensively, he was 'just okay'.

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The situation wasn't much different from Daniel Darkwah at left-back. On some occasions, they were caught out of position when they moved forward. The midfield duo of Kwame Bonsu and Umar Basiru only chased shadows too, while the visitors imposed themselves more and more. Maybe a third midfield man to shove things up would have done the trick. 
Hilal didn't look too dangerous around goal, but they looked very composed and comfortable in possession, giving Kotoko little chance to control affairs. That possibly was the undoing for the Porcupines.

Quarterfinal ticket will cost last-day blood 
With Nkana FC beating Zesco United 3-0 in the other Group C game on Sunday in an all-Zambian affair before kickoff in Kumasi, a win for Kotoko by any margin would have confirmed their place in the last eight with a match to spare.

Now, the Porcupine Warriors, third on the table, will have to do it the hard way as they must beat Zesco away in Ndola on the final matchday to qualify. Sunday's draw could cost Kotoko so much in the end.  

Hilal knows how to grind it
Out of the four teams, Hilal stand the best chance to make the last eight as currently one point adrift of first-placed Nkana, victory on the final matchday at home will leave them two points clear at the top. That status did not come by chance.

Before Sunday, the Sudanese were the only team in the group to have picked a point on the road following a 1-1 draw at Zesco, a place all others have fallen. Then in Kumasi, Nabil Kouki's side defied the odds to steal another point - a venue both Nkana and Zesco fell at. Applause for The Blue Wave!