Kumasi Asante Kotoko threw away a second half lead to lose 3-2 against Nigeria’s Kano Pillars in the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Champions League preliminary qualifying first leg match at the Saani Abacha Sports Stadium.
But owing to a poor defensive display in the second half, the Nigerian fought back game to pull an equalizer before going to snatch the winner to hand the Ghanaians a ‘must-win task in the second leg at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium.
The confident Asanteman side had approached the game with the mindset of causing an early upset to unsettle their opponents.
But the Nigerians realized this very early and countered the Kotoko attacks as they dominated and pile early pressure on the Ghanaians.
Kotoko appeared a bit shaky under that spell and finally caved in when Kano Pillars broke through the defence to draw first blood.
It followed a dazzling move from Paul Hilary who ignored the challenge from Kotoko’s Ayiku Tetteh, meandered his way through and fired a grounder to the left side of Kotoko’s post to record the leader.
That was in the 13th minute. It left skipper and goalkeeper, Felix Annan with no chance and in the process brought the stadium alive as the fans anticipated a cricket score against the Ghanaians.
Hilary continued with his threats to the Kotoko defence using his speed and strength to great advantage.
But when Kotoko got into their groove, they were a delight to watch as they controlled the midfield and made several incursions to the Kano Pillars area but failed to find their way through the defence of the Nigerians.
They, however, sustained the momentum and found the equalizer on the 55th minute mark with a header from Justice Blay.
Kotoko kept the heat on their host who at this stage committed a lot of fouls, one of which earned the Porcupine Warriors a free kick just behind the goal area of the Nigerians.
From that spot, Godfred Asiamah fired straight into the Pillars goal to hand the Ghanaian a rare lead that plunged the stadium into petrified silence. That was on the 68th minute.
Surprisingly, Kotoko went into capitulation late in the game as the Nigerians pushed more men forward, and shipped two quick goals away to end 3-2 losers.
With two away goals in their basket, the Porcupine Warriors can qualify with a 1-0 narrow win but must avoid conceding at home.
BY TIMES SPORTS REPORTER