First-half goals from Fatawu Safiu, Emmanuel Gyamfi and Martin Antwi ensured that the Porcupine Warriors run out 3-0 winners to keep their hopes of progressing in the CAF Confederations Cup alive.
As emphatic as the result was, it also reaffirmed Kotoko’s new-found ruthlessness at their home ground. For many years, the 23-time Ghana Premier League champions made the Baba Yara stadium a fortress. Rarely did other clubs have a field day when facing Kotoko in Kumasi.
It was this same ground that the Porcupine Warriors defeated Zamalek 5-1 in the 1980s; blew away ASEC Mimosas 3-1 in the 1990s; and routed AS Police 4-0 In the early 2000s.
However, that atmosphere of fear which usually greeted visiting teams seems to have diminished in recent years. In the last decade, the Porcupine Warriors have often flattered to deceive when playing in continental competitions – and have been even more disappointing when playing at home.
In the last few years, continental minnows like El Eulma and JSM Bejaia have all managed to pick up points against Kotoko at the Baba Yara stadium in Africa inter-club competitions.
But under CK Akonnor, Kotoko seems to be gaining its home mojo back. The Kumasi giants have gradually become the only shining light in what is currently a chaotic period in Ghana’s football.
Despite the country’s league being on suspension for the past nine months, the 45-year-old tactician has managed to arrest Kotoko’s home woes and has made the club a force to reckon with on the continent once again.
The Porcupine Warriors’ impressive run in the Confederations Cup has been built on a solid home record, which has seen them totally dominate and take apart all their opponents at the Baba Yara stadium.
It is a journey which began with a narrow 2-1 win over Kenyan heavyweights Kariobangi Sharks. The Porcupine Warriors repeated the same scoreline when Ivorian giants Coton Sport came to town. This was followed by another impressive win over Zambian champions ZESCO United in the group stages of the Confederations Cup.
Sunday’s 3-0 drabbing of Nkana FC means Kotoko have now won all their home games in the ongoing competition. The precedent also points to a side that is growing stronger and stronger on its home turf. The Porcupine Warriors are gradually returning the Baba Yara stadium to the fearsome and daunting ground it used to be for visiting teams.
If the results are less testament of Kotoko rejuvenated home form, then the sheer number of fans that have usually flood the stadium for the club’s continental games should give a better clue. While the 3-0 win over Nkana was eye-catching, the main highlight was the scene of Kumasi fans singing and dancing outside the Baba Yara stadium even after the match was over.
It is obvious that confidence is at an all-time high among the Kotoko faithful, and rightly so. Therefore, as the Porcupine Warriors prepare to face Al Hilal in their next continental assignment, the signs are already clear: the Baba Yara stadium is no longer a playground for any visiting side.
For the rest of Africa, though, Kotoko’s consecutive home wins are not just a statement, but a timely reminder that the club means business in this year’s Confederations Cup.
“I’m confident that Kotoko can go all the way in the CAF Confederations Cup,” says a buoyant Kotoko fan, Andrews Abbey. “Don’t even ask me why, because from what we are seeing, I can confidently say no club can beat us at home. If any club beats us 10-0 away, we will beat them 12-0 at the Baba Yara stadium!”
Andrews’ optimism may come across as overconfidence, but the fact there are thousands more fans in and around Kumasi who feel the same way – and it’s because the Baba Yara stadium has once again become a fortress for the Porcupine Warriors.