Asante Kotoko Head Coach Mariano Baretto fumed at his team for a late first-half equaliser that ended their 26th week league clash on Saturday 1-1, describing the goal as ‘silly’ goal.
The Portuguese trainer’s frustrations stemmed from the fact that the result meant Kotoko were unable to regain the top spot on the league standings and were now locked on 46 points with arch-rivals Hearts of Oak, with the ‘Phobians’ leading the pack on superior goal difference after edging Eleven Wonders 1-0 at Techiman on Friday.
“We were playing against a team that was eager to win, we started very well and took the lead and then last minute of the first half, we concede a ‘silly’ goal. That goal is unacceptable since we have been practicing around these situations especially when the opponent has free throws and other set-pieces.
“We came back strong in the second half, created more, shot more but it was just not enough. Some of the decision-making of our strikers was also poor.”
Nonetheless, Coach Barreto expressed optimism ahead of the eight remaining games, intimating that it was still a “long journey.”
“We now have the same points as Hearts with eight games remaining and that is still a long journey and so we’ll learn from what happened for the next games ahead.”
For the first time this year, Barreto started Captain Felix Annan in post as first choice goalie Razak Abalora was dropped for the game. Returning midfielder Emmanuel Keyekeh also starred in his first starting role since December 2020 when he suffered an injury.
Kotoko began the game on a promising note grabbing an early lead in the second minute through an Abdul Ganiu penalty. Emmanuel Gyamfi, after disrupting a WAFA move launched a onetime pass to striker Andy Kumi whose attempt at scaling over WAFA goalie Osei Bonsu resulted in Bonsu hacking him down.
Referee Wiseman Ghansah did not hesitate to point to the penalty spot, this was where Ganiu, gradually gaining the reputation as a penalty expert stepped up to score the opener.
The goal which was expected to be booster for a floodlight of goals for the home side became a catalyst for the visitors to rally back as they recovered from the early slip to avoid any more damage. Gradually they grew in confidence, dictating the play and exploring loopholes to punish Kotoko.
Kotoko resorted to wing play, floating balls into the WAFA box which was dealt with perfectly by centre-back pair Abukari Ibrahim and Konadu Yiadom; one of such balls from Imoro Ibrahim squeezed through to Brazilian Fabio Gama as he shot feebly at Bonsu.
WAFA’s resilience was rewarded on the death of half-time when Justus Torsutsey out jumped Habib Mohammed to power home Acquaye Bortey’s lofted cross from the right.
After the break, Kotoko tweaked their approach and resorted to playing through the middle offering some nervous times for WAFA, who sat back and decided to take their chances launching long balls forward.
Fabio Gama again was presented with an opportunity after he dummied his way around two WAFA defenders but his strike lacked power to trouble Bonsu.
In a desperate move to find a winner, Coach Barreto introduced striker Sarfo Taylor and attacking right-back Samuel Frimpong, who joined Gyamfi, Andy Kumi, Fabio Gama and Imoro who laid siege in the WAFA area in the final 15 minutes but lacked the cutting edge and settled for a stalemate.
WAFA Head Coach, Dr Prosper Nartey Ogun hailed his boys for their resilient spirit despite suffering an early setback, adding that they achieved their game plan but were unlucky not to have won.
Ibrahim Imoro who won the Man-of-the-Match accolade indicated that despite Kotoko dropping two points at home they were primed to win the league.