Kumasi Asante Kotoko are through to the final round of qualifiers for the 2018/2019 CAF Confederation Cup after beating Kenyan side Kariobangi Sharks in front of a vociferous crowd at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.
Abdul Fatawu opened the scoring for Kotoko before the Kenyans pulled parity through captain Patilah Omoto. Amos Frimpong then converted a penalty after Songne Yacouba was brought down to give Kotoko victory. The two dreams drew the first leg 0-0 a week ago.
Kotoko’s first real chance came as early as the 6th minute, when tricky winger Maxwell Baakoh combined neatly with Songne Yacouba on the left flank before his shot was deflected wide by Geoffrey Lemo.
Kariobangi should have opened the scoring moments later when Vincent Wasambo sent a free header wide from inside the 6-yard box, following Michael Obodo’ s inviting cross.
Kotoko had dominated the early exchanges without creating much. But their reward came in the 17th minute nonetheless. Midfielder Abdul Fatawu who started the game as part of two changes to CK Akonnor’s line up from the first leg, repaid his manager’s faith with a sublime finish.
After sloppy play from Patilah Omoto, Fatawu showed great determination to dispossess him, then turned right back Michael Bodo inside and out before finishing superbly in the near post.
But Kotoko’s lead only lasted 13 minutes. The Kenyans who had threatened all afternoon were soon level. Captain Omoto picked up a loose ball from 20 yards out and fired an absolute bullet past a bewildered Felix Annan.
But Kotoko restored their lead 6 minutes later. After Yacouba was brought down in the box by Geoffrey Lemo, captain Amos Frimpong stepped up to convert to make it 2-1.
Moments before half time, Harrison Mwendwa’s shot from inside the area came off the cross bar, sending a warning to Kotoko that the tie was far from over.
The Porcupine Warriors went into the break with the advantage.
The Kenyans began the second half stronger, helped by a tactical switch by head coach William Muluya who brought on an extra striker in Sydney Lokale to occupy both Kotoko center back.
Akonnor responded shoring up his midfield with the introduction of the more defensive Umar Bashiru in place of the more attacking-minded Jordan Opoku.
But Kotoko were still laboring, struggling to string passes together. Yacouba and Gyamfi were particularly ineffective while the tired Maxwell Baakoh was replaced in the 78th minute.
Yacouba’s shot straight at the Sharks goalkeeper was Kotoko’s only noticeable incursion into their opponents area.
But at the end of the pitch, Abdul Ganiyu was having a stormer, clearing everything thrown at him.
Kotoko’s Africa journey received a real scare if early truncation 5 minutes from time. Sharks won a free-kick in the edge of the 18 yard box. As Omoto stepped up to take, fans held their nerves as the stadium went silent. But Felix Annan’s rose full stretch to tip it over the bar, which drew loud cheers from the crowd.
It was a cheer of relief, rather than one of excitement. But the biggest roar came at referee Mashood Ssali’s full time whistle.
CK Akonnor jumped in elation, fist in the air, before hugging Maxwell Baakoh who lifted his boss up before the rest of the technical team joined in a huddled celebration.
Kotoko will now play an opponent from the CAF Champions league last round qualifiers for a place in the group stages of the CAF Confederation Cup.