Kumasi Asante Kotoko defeated dark horses of the maiden GFA Tier One Special Competition, Karela United, 4-2 on penalties at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi yesterday to pick Ghana’s sole ticket for next season’s CAF Champions League. The two sides were tied on 1-1 after 90 minutes of play following goals by former “wonder boy” of AshantiGold, Emmanuel Baffour, for Karela in the 49th minute and a controversial penalty converted by Abdul Fatawu Safiu Fataw for Kotoko in the 73rd minute.
It was Kotoko’s second silverware in less than a month after defeating long standing rivals, Asec Mimosas to lift the Otumfuo 20th anniversary Cup.
Karela, notwithstanding their loss, appeared to be well drilled and deserving winners until their lead was cancelled.
They possessed the ball for most of the time, took charge of the midfield but luck eluded them.
Indeed, they surrendered the trophy to Kotoko the moment they abandoned their attacking football to defend the narrow lead.
Kotoko swung into top gear barely a minute after kick off but Abdul Fatawu Safiie overindulgence robbed his side of an early goal.
Karela responded in equal measure but Diawisie Taylor’s powerful free kick three minutes later missed the upright narrowly.
From then on Karela produced some scary moments for the home fans with near misses and indecisions in front of goal.
Kotoko managed to break through momentarily in the 24th minute when veteran Jordan Opoku initiated an exciting move down the left flank with series of interpositional play, but fumbled with only goalkeeper Hagan Isaac to beat.
Kotoko struggled in midfield for the greater part of the first half where skipper Amos Frimpong’s new role as a holding midfielder failed to work.
Karela had a field day as they pushed the ball around with ease but failed to subdue the Kotoko defence.
With just a minute to end the first half, rasta-haired Safo Taylor Solomon outpaced his marker, Abdul Ganiu, from a long through ball, but was harassed till goalkeeper, Osei Kwame closed in to rescue the situation.
Controversy broke out in the 71st minute when referee Latif Adaari awarded a doubtful penalty to aid Kotoko to equalise in the 73rd minute through Safiu.
That goal, however, followed an earlier doubtful decision by the referee when Kotoko protested a goal-bound shot to be a perfect goal.
But more controversy was to come on the stroke of full time when Kotoko’s perfect goal from a goalmouth melee was ruled to be a foul to the chagrin of the fans.
Indeed, the referee appeared confused and in his attempt to appease Karela for awarding a wrong penalty against them, created more confusion to mar the beauty of the game.
When the penalty shoot-out was effected to separate the two sides, Karela scored two as against four by Kotoko to give the Porcupine Warriors the ticket to represent Ghana in the CAF Champions League competition.