Preview: Kotoko poised for victory at CARA

Posted on: Wed Feb 21, 2018 - Report by Gideon Boakye Botwe

Kotoko will look to seal their spot in the second preliminary round of the CAF Confederation Cup when they face CARA Club in Congo Brazzaville on Wednesday.

Steven Polack's side currently boasts of a 1-0 cushion from the first leg in Kumasi played nine days ago, and would qualify if they should avoid defeat and earn, at least, any form of a draw.

But the Porcupines would have to lace up and troop onto a potentially hostile grounds knowing the challenge that lies ahead of them; an elimination game against a tough opponent and one that somewhat feels were undone by frustrations meted out to them in Kumasi by both Kotoko and Senegalese Referee, Issah Sey, for the four penalty calls against them although they remain silent over the one call that went in their favour when the game was still goalless.

On Wednesday, the Porcupines would stand toe to toe against the opponent in an unfamiliar pitch and stadium, knowing very well that they must play above themselves to progress.

CARA Club did not trouble Kotoko much in the first leg as they made just one positive move in the game which resulted in a penalty in the 74th minute. But, Steven Polack is very much aware that one may perform differently playing at home and so has prepared his men both physically and psychologically to be able to maintain, if not increase their fine display in Kumasi.

Wednesday will bring to an end the third African meeting between Kotoko and CARA, and it does seem incredible that the Porcupines have won all the previous elimination matches. But worthy of note, however, is that it has always been a close contest between the two.

In 1976, the Porcupines beat the Congolese club by 1-0 in Kumasi, lost 2-1 in Congo and pegged the goal aggregate at 2-2 to progress on the away goal rule.

The Porcupines, once again, eliminated CARA enroute to the 1983 Africa Cup Championship; now the African Champions League. CARA beat Kotoko 3-2 in the first leg game in Congo but lost by 2-0 in Kumasi to make the goal aggregate 4-3 in favour Kotoko.

History favours the Porcupines as far as progressions over the two-leg games are concerned and the fact that they scored 3 goals and conceeded in both visits make their chances even brighter. But the dark side is that Kotoko have not drew or won at CARA and that they have conceeded five goals in two games. 

It would take some hardwork to achieve success at CARA and Steve Polack has used the training sessions over the last few days to prepare his team on how to capitalise on the hosts' weaknesses and has also worked on the lapses he saw in his side in the same first leg game.

The 2-time Africa champions go into the match with a 1-1 draw against division one side, Asokwa Deportivo in their only preparatory game after the first leg. And it was just about the perfect preparation match for the Porcupines who stormed Brazzaville on Tuesday with 17 of the 18 players who represented the club in the first leg. Only midfielder Douglas Owusu Ansah, missed the trip due to a knock he took at training on Friday. His place was taken by defender Emmanuel Owusu.

Having impressed in the match against Asokwa Deportivo, Kotoko would look to parade a formidable starting-XI with a solid bench to rely on for the game.

It would be fair to say that Kotoko have a better wealth of quality, judging from the first leg game, but Polack's side knows too well that games change and so do performances. They also know that they must be more acurate to beat CARA's impressive goalkeeper Massa Chansel who saved two penalty kicks back in Kumasi but squandered one when he was presented with the chance to put his side in front from the spot.

Both teams would shrug it out against each other as Steven Polack and CARA coach, Roger Ossiete, dig deep to find the best way possible to break down the other. A good chunk of the responsibilities would lie on Lesotho referee, Martin Lebalang Mokete and his 1st and 2nd assistants, Souri Phatsoane and Amadou Ngom respectively. 4th referee Osiase William Koto and Match Commissioner Antonio Nsue Ondo Oye of Equatorial Guinea would have to ensure that the game goes on fairly  without fear or favour for any side.

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