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Asante Kotoko, first round league ‘champions’

Asante Kotoko maintained their quest to win the 2021/22 Ghana Premier League after holding arch-rivals Hearts of Oak to a scoreless draw in Accra yesterday to finish the first round of the campaign as ‘champions’ with a seven-point lead over their nearest rival, Bechem United.

The Porcupine Warriors denied the Phobians a win at their own backyard to ensure they establish a 12-point lead between them and the defending champions after 17 matches.

Kotoko ended the first round on top of the league table with 37 points [11 wins, two defeats and four draws] as Coach Prosper Ogum Narteh’s side hunt for their 25th league title.

At the halfway mark, Kotoko were the second highest scoring side with 26 goals after Dreams FC (29) with their Cameroonian forward Frank Mbella Etouga leading the goal-king chart with 11 goals. They also had the second strongest defence after conceding 10 goals in 17 games.

Yesterday’s stalemate leaves the defending champions in eighth place on the log with 25 points after 17 matches ahead of the second round of the league season.

Hearts’ Kwadwo Obeng Jnr had what proved to be the clearest chance of the first half after 15 minutes but the forward was denied by the woodwork.

Obeng Jnr had received a delightful pass from Daniel Afriyie Barnieh but failed to bury the chance after a nice control.

Both sides were cautious to avoid conceding in the opening 10 minutes of the league’s biggest fixture but Kotoko were the more adventurous side as they enjoyed the lion’s share of the attack.

In the 10th minute, experienced Sulley Ali Muntari came close to scoring but his bicycle kick went over the post.

Three minutes later, goalie Richard Attah made a fantastic save to deny Kotoko’s in-form striker Franck Mbella Etouga when his shot in the box was tipped out of the post.

The Porcupine Warriors continued with their impressive display when offensive midfielder Dickson Afoakwa dribbled past Hearts defender Fatawu Mohammed but his effort hit the side of the net.

Attah was called to action again in the 38th minute when Kotoko’s other Cameroonian forward, George Mfegue dribbled past Dennis Korsah but his low drive went straight to the goalie.

After the recess, Kotoko came straight at Hearts in search for the opener in the 46th minute but Etouga’s header from Mfegue’s cross failed to trouble Attah.

The Porcupine Warriors attacked again through Richmond Lamptey who received a precise pass from Mfegue two minutes later but his goal-bound shot was thwarted by Attah.

In the 57th minute, Attah made two difficult saves to keep the ball from entering the net from a Lamptey shot as the Phobians had their backs to the wall.

The Phobians came into the game looking to steal the win in the closing stages of the match but the Kotoko defence were alert to avoid conceding.

Influential midfielder Gladson Awako tried his luck at goal from 25 yards after 84 minutes but his shot went off target.
Kotoko saw their penalty appeal in added-on time overlooked by referee Rustum Senorgbe who whistled for an offside as the two sides shared the points to bring the curtains down on the first round of the competition.

Credit: Graphic Sports

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