Football

GPL: First quarter down, the story so far

You might have heard “never make sense of a league table just a few games into the season”.

However, we have seen each team play nine games which is approximately 25% of the 2020/21 Ghana Premier League played.

If not for anything, it feels like the ideal time to look back taking stock of the major occurrences so far.

Nine matchdays present a fair sample size to make some assessments of teams and gauge how the rest of the campaign will pan out.

Crazy results so far

Matchday 1 was highlighted with a goalfest between WAFA and King Faisal at Sogakope. The home team took a 4-1 lead which they almost surrendered due to a late surge from King Faisal.

The game ended 4-3 with Daniel Lomotey and Kwame Peprah scoring braces on the day.

Daniel Lomotey is currently the topscorer of the league

For King Faisal, it was the end of the road when it comes to extraordinary results as they are yet to score more than a goal per game since.

However, WAFA were in a similar circumstance against Medeama on matchday 7. The Academy Boys once again almost surrendered a heavy lead at Sogakope.

Prosper Nartey’s men took a 4-0 lead in the first half but despite Medeama’s second half charges, WAFA held on to win 5-4.

Once again, Lomotey was the source of inspiration scoring four goals in the game as he extended his lead at the top of the golden boot race.

The story wasn’t WAFA biased when it came to outstanding games, Hearts of Oak reached the pinnacle of the second era of Kosta Papic when they put six past then table leaders Bechem United.

Victor Aidoo scored a brace against Bechem United

Hearts of Oak enjoyed a sharp contrast in performance in the second 45 minutes of the game scoring all six goals in the second half. Bechem United scored a consolation goal, but that performance at the Accra Sports stadium remains Hearts’ best yet.

The Len Clay stadium in Obuasi also witnessed a blockbuster as AshGold beat regional rivals King Faisal 5-1.

The Miners looked sharp in attack and could have probably scored a couple more goals on the day.

Those five goals scored by AshGold on matchday 3 was the first time any team had scored five in a Ghana Premier League game this season.

The title contenders

In a small town in the Western Region called for Aiyinase, there is an ongoing miracle. Against all the odds, it is Karela United who currently lead the league after the first quarter.

No one expected to see them in the title race especially after their performances in the truncated Ghana Premier League.

Kwame Boateng and Diawisie Taylor have scored 12 goals in 9 games

The side from Western Region picked up just 11 points from 15 games last season and were deeply rooted in the relegation zone.

It has been a massive turnaround for Evans Adotey’s side who have picked up 17 points from nine games this season.

15 of those points have been from home as Karela boast of the best home form this season. They have won all five games at the Crossby Awuah Memorial Park scoring 12 goals and conceding just three.

Karela are closely followed by three teams tied on 16 points; Bechem United, Ashgold and Asante Kotoko.

The ongoing miracle at Aiyinase is also being replicated at Bechem in the Brong Ahafo.

The Supporters leadership of Bechem United gifted the team with a goat for leading the table during Christmas

Bechem United may not be top, but they’re just a point off anyway. And crucially, they spent the Christmas period on top of the league.

AshGold started slowly picking up just two points from their first two games, but have slowly crept up the table in the past few weeks.

The Obuasi-based side have made a habit of coming from behind in games. The Miners have picked up 12 points from losing positions this season – the most by any Ghana Premier League side.

AshGold are just one point behind the league leaders

The Miners also boast of the best attack this season scoring 18 goals in nine games so far.

AshGold’s regional rivals, Kotoko have also been in the title discussion.

The Porcupine Warriors have found new energy under interim head coach Johnson Smith.

Asante Kotoko have scored just nine goals this season

The upturn in form has been hugely inspired by Kotoko’s stingy defence this season. The Kumasi-based club have conceded just five goals – the least by any side.

Kotoko have also enjoyed a lot of success on the road this season as they remain the only side yet to lose an away game.

Hearts of Oak cannot be ruled out of title discussions just yet.

Since Kosta Papic was appointed, the Phobians have gone on to pick 13 points out of an available 18 – the most by any side in that period.

Hearts of Oak have found renewed energy under new coach Kosta Papic

Manaf Umar and Victor Aidoo have contributed to 9 goals since Kosta Papic took charge – that’s 56% of the goals scored under the Serbian coach so far.

Papic was at the helm the last time Hearts won a league title and he could possibly lead the Phobians to yet another title charge this season.

The title pretenders

One of the teams who benefited from the league being truncated last season is Great Olympics.

The Accra-based side were just five points above the relegation zone but it’s been contrasting fortunes this season.

Olympics have been in and around of the title race this season as the team has showed they are ready to upset the giants and compete.

Micheal Yeboah pocketed 5,000 cedis after scoring the winner against Kotoko.

Beating Asante Kotoko away has been the highlight of the season of Oly Dade with goal scorer on the day Michael Yeboah winning a 5,000 cedis voucher for Hisense products.

Olympics have also enjoyed playing on the road picking up seven points from five away games which is the second highest in the league.

WAFA have been enigmatic as expected, playing high octane football one week and reverting to lackluster football the other.

It is the inconsistencies of the side from Sogakope that has seen them drop to seventh in the table.

Although the Academy boys have been high flying upfront, their defence has also raised a few question marks. So far, they have scored 14 goals and conceded 12.

Aduana didn’t enjoy a fast start to the season like WAFA. The Ogya boys had to wait till matchday five to register their first win of the season.

That win at home against Hearts revived their season as Samuel Paa Kwasi Fabin’s men went to pick seven points from their next four games.

The return of marksman Yahaya Mohammed has also been a boost for Aduana as they look to upset the title race this season.

A big surprise this season has been the slow start of Medeama, a club many thought would be leading candidates for the title.

So far, the Mauve and Yellows have picked up just two wins and drawn five games which has been the biggest headache for head coach Samuel Boadu.

His side’s inability to convert chances has been the Achilles heel of the Tarwka-based side who have scored 10 goals in nine games.

Boadu has tried to rectify this issue by diving into the market to sign experienced Ghana Premier League striker Ahmed Toure who has had previous spells with Kotoko and Bechem United.

Relegation candidates

King Faisal showed promise in their first game when they lost 4-3 to WAFA, however it’s been downhill from there.

The Insha Allah boys have picked up just one win so far this season and are rooted in the relegation zone with a goal difference of -7.

The other two teams who share the relegation zone with King Faisal are Inter Allies and Legon Cities.

Legon Cities have failed to live up to expectations this season as they sit bottom

Both side’s league position has come as a shock considering the amount of quality the pair possess.

Maybe Legon Cities’ predicament is more surprising because of the high levels of investment during the transfer window. The signing of 14 new players was headlined by the return of Asamoah Gyan to the Ghana Premier League.

Despite all the acquisitions, the Royals sit bottom of the league and only scored their first open play goal of the season on matchday 9.

For Inter Allies, the club just never recovered from the sale of Samuel Armah and Victorien Adebayor. The pair contributed to 19 goals for the club in the truncated league.

This season, the Eleven is to One boys have scored three goals in nine games, the lowest in the league.

The relegation battle is not limited to these three teams because of how tightly packed the bottom half of the league is.

Currently, five points separate the bottom ten teams indicating that two matchdays could change the dimension of the relegation battle.

Elmina Sharks and Ebusua Dwarfs enjoyed positive starts to the seasons, however a slump in form sees both clubs still part of the battle for the drop.

When both sides met earlier in Cape Coast, goalkeeper Razak Issah was the difference as his free-kick goal proved to be the winner.

Another side dragged into the relegation battle is Eleven Wonders.

The side from Techiman had a fantastic start to the season picking up a crucial point against Kotoko away.

Ignatius Osei was on the lips of many due the tactical ingenuity he had shown in the early games.

Liberty Professionals were unbeaten at home until matchday 9 when they lost to Dwarfs.

Liberty lost their first home game to Ebusua Dwarfs

Most of those games were drawn games as Liberty have lacked the inspiration to kill games.

Berekum Chelsea have also been far from their usual self this season winning just two games so far.

Dreams FC after significant additions to their frontline have failed to make any impact in games.

The acquisition of Joseph Esso and Abel Manomey haven’t helped the Still Believe Lads going forward. Seven goals in nine games leaves them just one position above the relegation zone.

Coaching exodus

This season has also seen the recycling of coaches, an occurrence which isn’t foreign to the Ghana Premier League.

Olympics have been at the center of this process as they’ve been forced to replace Annor Walker who was working wonders this season due to an ailment.

As a result, Yaw Preko was appointed as the coach with support from assistant Godwin Attram. The club’s ex-players such as Richard Kingston and George Alhassan have also offered their services to the club.

Prior to all this, Olympics were nailing the coffins when it comes to teams sacking coaches.

The Wonder Club beat Legon Cities 3-0 and the Royals parted ways with Goran Barjaktarevic.

Olympics repeated the same feat when Maxwell Konadu was sacked less than 24 hours after Kotoko were beaten 1-0 by Oly Dade.

Kotoko’s rivals Hearts have also had some drama when it comes to coaches.

The club appointed Carlos Manuel Vaz Pinto as head coach and technical director only for him to leave the club seven days later.

Edward Nii Odoom had to take charge of the team throughout the early part of the season as a result.

Kosta Papic is back for his second stint at Hearts of Oak

Papic came back and has reclaimed the throne he sat on about 12 years ago.

As one Serbian came in, the other left. King Faisal head coach Slavisa Bozicic was sacked following his team’s heavy defeat to Ashgold.

Bozicic was replaced by Nana Andy Sinnason who is yet to win a game since taking charge.

Inter Allies said goodbye to Tony Lokko and Henrik Lehm. The latter was recalled by Capelli Sport after a successful 1-year stint with the club.

Danijel Mujkanovic was appointed by Inter Allies as new head coach to turn their fortunes around this season.

Dreams FC appointed Vladislav Viric as their new head coach.

The Serbian holds a UEFA License A and has experience working with Vision FC and Valencia.

Winfred Dormon remains assistant manager as Karim Zito has been moved to Technical Director role.

Golden boot race

The race for the golden boot has been incredibly competitive this season. Daniel Lomotey who is the current topscorer won’t be winning the race, unless there is a miracle.

The WAFA striker has joined Tunisian side, AS Soliman. With the striker tied on eight goals with Diawisie Taylor, it is expected he will be surpassed.

Asante Kotoko’s Kwame Poku who has been pivotal has scored six goals and is closely followed by Aduana frontman Yahaya Mohammed who has five goals.

Kwame Poku has been in hot form for Kotoko scoring 6 goals this season

Victor Aidoo who has found form under new coach Papic is on four goals alongside Karela’s Kwame Boateng, Hans Kwofie of Ashgold and King Faisal’s Kwame Peprah.

Although Yahaya Mohammed has scored just five goals, his contribution for Aduana has been immense.

Those five goals have won 11 points for Aduana – the highest number of points won by a player.

Projection

It’s early days yet, but the first quarter of the season has laid down the fundamentals of what could be a unique season.

Karela United and Bechem United have demonstrated they can challenge the big teams.

On the other hand, the big teams such as Hearts, Kotoko and AshGold have demonstrated resilience.

The precedence set shows that the various components of the league will go down to the wire and will be tightly contested.

For the first time in a long period, the topscorer of the league could surpass the 20-goal mark.

There will be another assessment of the league after matchday 17 which signals the halfway mark so be on the lookout.


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