Kumasi Asante Kotoko secured their first win of the 2018/2019 CAF Confederation Cup group stages with a hard fought 2-1 win over Zambian side Zesco United.
Two first half goals from Kwame Bonsu and Emmanuel Gyamfi put Kotoko firmly in control of the tie before substitute Rahim Osumanu’s header threatened a comeback but only ended as consolation.
Kwame Bonsu hit the woodwork late on and Kondwani Mtonga was shown a red card in injury time.
It was a game in which Asante Kotoko goalkeeper Felix Annan proved his worth again while striker Songne Yacouba had an impressive and frustrating game in equal measure.
It took Kotoko 10 minutes to get their noses in front. Abdul Ganiu’s acrobatic clearance found Songne Yacouba at the far corner. The Burkinabe man weaved past Zesco’s right back Simon Silwimba before squaring the ball to Kwame Bonsu who connected a first time shot that was helped into the net by Mwila Phiri’s attempted block.
Kotoko nearly doubled the lead immediately after re-start. Abdul Fatawu Safiu found Yacouba inside the area but he shot wide, much to the disbelief of head coach CK Akonnor who had his head in his hands.
On 20 minutes, Zesco were awarded a penalty after Agyemang Badu’s clumsy challenge on Quadri Aladeokun.
But Jesse Jackson Wire’s effort was brilliantly saved by Felix Annan who showed great agility to keep his side in the game.
Kotoko made sure Zesco paid for that penalty miss as Emmanuel Gyamfi arrived late at the far post to tap in Yacouba’s pinpoint cross.
The rasta-haired striker may have yet to score a goal in this season’s CAF Confederation Cup, but he had now provided two assists in this nervy encounter.
At the start of the second half, Yacouba, who had been at the end of every great Kotoko passing sequence, found himself through on goal but he shot straight at Jacob Banda.
Kotoko felt they should have had a penalty when Banda came off his line to bundle the ball clear and took out Emmanuel Gyamfi in the process but Moroccan referee Nouredine El Jaafari waived play on.
Zesco counter attacked from that incident and Annan came off his line to clear from Aladeokun before Lazarus Kambole shot wide from the rebound.
The never-ending nerve-wracking ding-dong exchanges continued and Yacouba put his effort wide yet again after being played through.
His misses were now telling and beginning to frustrate the Porcupine Warriors’ fan base. And rightly so. If Yacouba showed any potency in front of goal, the contest could have easily ended a whitewash.
Zesco had great moments throughout the game and always looked like scoring every time they bombed forward, only to see their efforts thwarted by the impressive Felix Annan in the Kotoko goal.
But they got their reward on 77 minutes after substitute Rahim Osumanu’s header beat the on-rushing Annan who failed to get to the ball first following a long ball over the top.
The Tamale-born attacker had replaced Jesse Jackson Wire 5 minutes prior.
Richard Senanu was replaced by Habib Mohammed late on after being stretched off while Akonnor brought on Stephen Nyarko to replace the very impressive but wasteful Yacouba.
The closing stages had every Kotoko fan’s heart in their mouths as Zesco pressed on for an equaliser. Osumanu had a header tipped over the bar by Annan and Abdul Ganiu cleared from the goal line.
Kwame Bonsu then saw his header come off the upright and Kondwani Mtonga was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Maxwell Baakoh in a very eventful last 5 minutes.
Kotoko held on for their first win in the group stages of the 2018/2019 CAF Confederation Cup.
Nkana FC beat Al-Hilal of Sudan in the group’s other game. All four teams are now on 3 points in Group C.
Kotoko will now travel to Zambia to face Nkana in 10 days time.