Asante Kotoko pulled off a difficult win over Karela United on penalty kicks Sunday to become champions of the Normalization Special Cup Tier-One competition.
Coach CK Akonnor’s men climbed from behind to draw 1-1 in the regulation time before emphatically winning the shootouts 4-1 to carry the trophy at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium.
It was not the usual setting for a final game involving Asante Kotoko in Kumasi. The empty seats perhaps took a little bit of shine from the game but the intensity both sides brought in the second half made for the attendance lapse.
The game tipped off right with the Aiyinase-based side looking more purposeful and threatening the Porcupines goal yard the more. Karela United came pretty close to opening the score cards through leading attacker of the competition, Diawisie Taylor. Taylor’s effort lacked precision and was pawed away by the hero of the day, goalkeeper Osei Kwame.
Kotoko showed glimpse on some rare occasions, chiefly when Naby Keita’s effort inched slightly wide off target forcing Isaac Hagan to dive in to ensure the ball wouldn’t hurt anyway.
When play was resumed in the second half, the ‘Passioners’ continued their dominance over Asante Kotoko and Emmanuel Osei Baffour curled one to the far-left corner to put Coach Johnson Smith’s side in the lead.
Right after the goal, Karela United looked panting at the slightest duress by Kotoko. To start with the strings of attacks from the Kumasi giants; Emmanuel Gyamfi inside the box saw his effort punched out by Isaac Hagan – Fatawu Safiu’s rebound was cleared off the line by Isaac Kwain.
Again, Nurudeen who seemed to be finding his footing tumbled upon Safiu and referee Adaari called play back and signaled penalty for Kotoko which Safiu elected himself and expertly converted to put the game at 1-1.
Asante Kotoko nearly added another, but Referee Adaari disallowed the goal pointing at a hand ball against Kwame Boahene.
The regulation time ended 1-1 and the game headed to the shootouts.
Patrick Yeboah and Ampem Dacosta missed their kicks, meaning strikes from Ismail Ganiyu, Daniel Darkwah, Fatawu Safiu and Naby Keita would send Kotoko 4-1 up and make the champions of Tier-One of the Normalization Special Cup competition.
Asante Kotoko have also won the slot to represent Ghana at the 2019/20 Caf Champions League and also receive GHS 200,000 prize money.
The final of the Tier-Two competition, which will also determine Ghana’s Caf Confederation Cup candidate, is scheduled for June 30 at Cape Coast Stadium. AshantiGold and lower tier side Nzema Kotoko will battle for the ultimate.