Unpleasant weekend for Ghanaian clubs
Ghana's representatives in the CAF organised competitions over the weekend had unpleasant memories as all the four clubs recorded heart breaking results which put their chances of advancing to the next stage on a tight rope.
The sad situation began on Saturday when Kumasi Asante Kotoko lost 2-0 under clear biased officiating against USMA of Algeria in Algiers, whilst Liberty Professionals struggled to win by a 3-2 margin over Stade Tunisien of Tunisia at the Accra Sports Stadium.
With so much expectations from football loving fans that the tide will change in favour of Ghana on Sunday, it was rather the opposite when the two other hopefuls, King Faisal and Accra Hearts of Oak were held to a one all drawn game at the Kumasi Sports Stadium against Santos of South Africa with Accra Hearts of Oak also winning by a lone at the Accra Sports Stadium against Etoile Sportive du' Sahel.
The results were so tight that only a total of five goals were scored for and five goals recorded against by the four clubs at the end of the first leg matches.
The results, no doubt make the second leg matches daunting tasks as Kotoko have to score three unanswered goals in the return leg to enable them qualify to the next stage.
Hearts, Faisal and Liberty face the most difficult tasks as they play their next matches in the "enemies territory" away from home but it is expected that if they manage to record scoreless drawn games in their encounters they will be in a better position to scale through. There is, however, no doubt that the clubs will also definitely be subjected to all forms of harassment by the home teams in their bid to frustrate them to win their respective matches.
Hearts on the one hand are a hard breed who can be relied upon and are capable of standing these difficulties as they have players who have gone through similar situations on a number occasions, but as to whether Liberty Professionals with a bunch of novices have the heart to stand any form of frustrations and intimidations both on and off the field, remains unanswered and to be seen as the days approaches.
Faisal also seem to have some lads who have gained some level of experience in continental matches with the likes of Hamza Mohamed, Godwin Ablordey and Abubakri Yahuzaas well as goal keeper Suraju Mohammed.
In assessing the four matches, it would be noted that the two goals conceded by Kotoko were without their fault but they could have avoided them if the referee had not frustrated them with series of yellow cards and three red cards that included their coach Hans Dieter Schimdt as well as their two key players, Kweku Essien and skipper Joe Hendricks receiving one card each that automatically rules them out of the next game.
In the end, the team also received as many as six yellow cards which also automatically rules some of their players out in the next game and the team needs to send an emergency SOS message to Aziz Ansah, Charles Taylor, Micheal Osei and Micheal Asante who did not join the team in the first leg to quickly "come to Macedonia" to salvage the team's image and assist them in qualifying for the next leg so that the dreams of making a historic entry into the Champions League proper actually materialises.
For Hearts, the strikers have themselves to blame for squandering the series of scoring chances that came their way in the game. As rightly stated by coach Middendorp, they have no cause to complain but to go back to the drawing board and prepare well for the next leg. To the disciplinarian coach, the club has a good away record on which they are going to rely on to secure the much-needed ticket to the money zone.
Liberty Professionals also had a similar problem of squandering chances as compared to Hearts if not worse as they could have buried their opponents in the first half-quarter of the game with at least three goals but failed to utilise the scoring chances that came their way in a luck-lustre manner.
Santos of South Africa have over the years shown that they are a force to reckon with after giving Kotoko some scary moments two years ago in the Cup Winners Cup competition, hence the performance they displayed at the Kumasi Sports Stadium, last Sunday was no fluke. It is however, encouraging that all the four coaches are optimistic of their chances in the next leg though the task ahead of them will be difficult one.
On the other hand, it will disastrous for Ghana, should all the clubs fall out of the competition, May God forbid since that situation will further cast a blow to the already sunken image of nation's soccer. The early exit of the clubs will also affect the financial standings of the clubs because almost all the four clubs are relying largely on bank loans for the campaign and have the aim of advancing to the money zone to reap the 450, 000 dollars for the Champions league and 250,000 dollars for the Confederations Cup to offset some of these loans and be in a better position to prepare well for the next stages of the competitions.
Any fall out of the competition will therefore worsen the financial plights of the Ghanaian teams and in a way affect their performances on the local scene.
Again, most Ghanaian clubs have relied on transfer of players to Europe and elsewhere as one of the major sources of income and the competition will serve as a good market for them to advertise and market these players.
For these reasons, the clubs cannot afford to miss out of the competitions since it will end their dreams of reaping some foreign currencies from the transfer of players to develop their respective clubs.
From all indications, the Ghanaians teams are capable of advancing to their desired destinations provided they make the needed technical and tactical corrections and are well motivated and get fair officiating especially in the away matches and when all these factors complement each other then surely the Ghanaian clubs would once more bring the smiles unto the faces of their supporters and the football loving people of the country since to most fans, all is not lost for them and their clarion call will be that, "It is not over until it is over".