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What a way to respond were the comments of quite a number of Kotoko fans who made it to the stadium last Sunday. This was a Kotoko side that had not been seen in action for over three weeks. There were genuine fears that the side was probably in for a heavy thrashing or a respectable loss. You definitely do not go into this game on the back of being inactive for that long. And it was just not a case of a player or two being injured in that unfortunate accident but quite a number still recovering.
Even when team Doctor Michael Leat told the world at a presser five days to the game that the players were good to go, there were huge sections of the fans who thought the lads needed a few more weeks or if you like a few more games against relatively low opposition. Incidentally, Kotoko played against Nacosta FC four days before the game to assess the physical and mental conditioning. It didn’t still seem to be good enough.
One could understand why the fans were eager to see the game postponed. This is just not any other like Operations Manager Owusu Ansah wanted the fans to believe. This is a game that has massive bragging rights, one filled with tradition and by far the biggest game on the Ghanaian sporting calendar. Stars are made out of these games and with the Garden City playing host to this encounter, a section of the Red Army could simply not bare a second straight league loss to their eternal rivals this season.
I had the opportunity to compere the game on live Television and almost all the feedback I had from Social Media suggested a win for the Phobians. They were in decent form going into game, an opportunity to revenge the President Cup loss and get a result at a venue that they strangely call “home.” If the tide was going to turn at all, it was probably going to be a desire by the Kotoko lads to play above themselves and hope that they could nick something at the end.
The first 20 minutes was always going to be decisive in telling how physically and mentally prepared the guys were. The likes of Obed Owusu and Baba Mahama would have got many a fan worried with their touches and their mobility. The Phobians preferred to dictate the pace and up the ante as and when they pleased while Kotoko chose to sit deep to conserve energy and catch their opponents on the counter with the pace of Emmanuel Gyamfi.
Patrick Razak though seemed to have other ideas as he pummeled the Kotoko defence with his trickery and pace. He could have easily won a penalty had Referee Gagba awarded a decision in his favour when he seemed to have been clipped in the box. It was a massive turning point in the game for me to be honest. The Phobians were the better side at the time and it could have impacted the game massively if the penalty had been awarded.
I expected the Phobians to go all guns blazing in the second half knowing very well that there was a chance Kotoko could struggle physically having lacked match fitness ahead of the game. A lot of hearts may have sunk after Kizito scored the opener. Was it going to be the beginning of the floodgates being opened? There has been a lot of talk about the “wo kum apem aa, apem beba spirit of the past. If anyone doubted that, it was on show from that very moment as Kotoko battled in search of the equaliser. If I had arrived from another planet, there was no way I would have believed this was a side that had not played a competitive game in almost a month. They chased every ball and pushed the Phobians deep into their territory. One of these forays led to the debatable penalty being awarded with just under ten minutes.
For me it was great to see the side make such a strong return to the pitch on the back of that sad incident. The fans would surely be a lot keener on the outcomes of the upcoming games against WAFA in the league and Nea Salamina in the FA Cup. This could be key in the clubs silverware ambitions come the end of the season. The league to be honest looks like a long shot compared to the cup tie. It would be smart to take these games one at a time and see how they pan out. Kotoko fans would surely now love to see more of the performance they put in against the Phobians where the showed a lot of grit, tenacity and bravado. And great effort by Nana Yaw Frimpong Ampomah and his team with the Flag concept. You have earned my respect with all the hard work you guys put into that. I salute.
The lads believe in going all out in the final couple of games. The Red army has got to back them up.
Thanks for reading this piece.
The writer is Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang, Sports Editor at Class 91.3, Accra. You can reach on via twitter @DwomohKwame1 and on Facebook at Kwame Dwomoh. You can also reach him by phone on 0244-623166.