Al Hilal stood firm against Asante Kotoko to make sure they grab all three points in their first CAF Confederation Cup group game.
Asante Kotoko have managed to grind out away results during the playoffs; they managed to shut down Kariobangi Sharks in Kenya and surprised Coton Sports in Cameroon, but luck wasn’t on their side on Sunday as they suffered a narrow defeat against Al Hilal.
Waleed Hamid’s goal was the difference at Ombdurman on Sunday, confusion at the Kotoko defence enabled the 20-year-old to connect with a headed pass to put his side in front.
Asante Kotoko came close to equalize when Abdul Fatawu’s shot hit the bar in the early stages of the second half. Kotoko ran out of ideas in the remaining minutes of the game as they struggled to string passes in the final third.
CK Akonnor and his boys will have to work very hard if they want to salvage anything from the group stage.
Asante Kotoko lacked Creativity
CK Akonnor tried to emulate the style he used in Kenya against Kariobangi Sharks in the playoffs, a style where the midfielders will drop back to help the defence. It was very clear that Kotoko were being cautious, their style of play was to stop Al Hilal from scoring and this would have panned out if the defence didn’t fall asleep in the incident that led to a goal.
Apart from the attempt that hit the bar, Fatawu didn’t create real chances in the final third. He struggled to connect with Sogne Yacouba who was left isolated up front. Fatawu dropped deep to the center midfield while Bonsu and Senanu dropped deeper to shield the defensive line. Their main focus was to make sure they try to stop Al Hilal from scoring.
If they really want to start getting results, they need to start creating chances that will lead to goals instead of defending and hoping for the best.
Sogne Yacouba was left Isolated
A lot of people have been criticizing Sogne Yacouba because he has struggled to find the back of the net since he returned from injury. What many don’t understand is that he is a very talented player but can’t perform fully without the help of his teammates.
Against Al Hilal, Sogne Yacouba dropped back to collect passes from the midfield before attempting to move the ball forward on several occasions. He had to settle for long-range shots because his teammates were not positioning themselves for passes up front.
Baakoh and Gyamfi also dropped deep and made it look a defensive 4-5-1 formation, they lacked connection and communication. Baakoh made several fruitless runs down the right wing, Gyamfi was roaming aimlessly in the game. None of these two wingers managed to create anything tangible with Sogne Yacouba in the final third, and this is something CK Akonnor should look into.
Kotoko Defenders should emulate Amos Frimpong
Amos Frimpong was Kotoko’s best player against Al Hilal, a real captain performance was seen at the Al Hilal Stadium. Frimpong took charge of the right back, he even tried to make attacking runs down the right when Gyamfi was out of position.
The bold captain did his defensive duties and made sure no mistakes were made from his section. He tried to encourage the team with his claps and shouting after they found themselves behind.
If only the entire defence had the same passion, they would have shut out the Al Hilal attack and snuffed out every goal threat.
Asante Kotoko are in dire need of a playmaker
For games like this where everyone is expected to work towards stopping the opponents from scoring, I think Asante Kotoko will do even better if they have a playmaker that can create chances whenever they have the ball or are on a counter attack.
Kotoko often looked lost whenever they attempt to move the ball into the final third, they end up settling for unproductive back passes.
The porcupines need someone who can pick out teammates that can run with the ball and cause harm to the opponent, a player that can move into spaces and set up decisive passes. If they can get someone with this attribute, I think they will be able to create a connection in the final third.
Senanu and Frimpong’s performance are the positives in the game and I am sure that CK Akonnor will be pleased with their output.