Asante Kotoko and Eleven Wonders' game on Sunday served up one of the most intriguing tactical games of the early season.
Experienced Coach Maxwell Konadu and renowned tactical mind Ingatius Osei-Fosu went toe-to-toe with both teams sharing the spoils.
The average fan would have predicted an easy win for the Porcupine Warriors but Eleven Wonders showed up and gave Kotoko a tough test.
On another day, Wonders would have grabbed all 3 points. How did the Techiman side dominate the game and secure a result even after conceding the first goal?
Both teams set up in a 4-3-3 shape with a holding midfielder, two CMs and setup with a front 3 of two wingers and a striker. The systems were similar on paper, but both teams had distinct rotations and player movement.
Kotoko’s issues in the build up
Kotoko found it very difficult to play through Eleven Wonders early in the game, most often they found themselves 6v5 in the 1st phase.
The ball was moving too slowly and the play was stagnant as none of the Kotoko players were brave enough in the build up to attempt line breaking passes or drive forward with the ball to attract pressure.
This meant Kotoko often had to resort to long balls over the top to get a reference point for a meaningful attack. Kotoko’s CB pairing Ganiu and Mubarik completed 86 passes between themselves, further emphasizing the lack of penetration from the first phase [image via the Kotoko Express app]
Eleven Wonders’ mid-block
Wonders coach Ignatius stated in the post match conference that they knew Kotoko’s plan was to get it out wide and cross. So Eleven Wonders made it very difficult to play through their mid-block.
Anytime Kotoko had the ball during the build up in their half, Wonders would sit off and wait for them at the halfway line. The set-up was very disciplined and organized, it cut off access to Kotoko progressing the ball through the middle.
Striker Samuel Boakye was always shadowing the holding midfielder to force the defenders to keep the ball; the rest of the team sat in a 4-1-4-1 shape defensively to stifle Kotoko.
Kotoko went 20mins without a shot on goal vs Eleven Wonders.
This was by far Kotoko’s best route to goal throughout the game, the Porcupine warriors were able to pounce on Eleven Wonders’ mistakes at the back during build-up. Their only goal of the game came from pressing Wonders on the ball.
Eleven Wonders primarily started from the back with the two Center backs and the holding midfielder often involved on the ball. The fullbacks hugged the touchline to stretch the pitch.
Kotoko’s press was triggered by loose passes and heavy touches from the Wonders defenders. The goal from Kwame Poku showed how effective the press was in the game.
Ignatius Osei-Kofi’s gamble pays off
After going 1-0 down early in the second half, the Eleven wonders coach decided to take off his holding midfielder and throw on a striker, Prince Okraku, who eventually scored the equalizer. Apart from being an extremely tactical coach, Ignatious showed a willingness to attack the Porcupine Warriors even when his team was down.
A draw was an unfair result for Techiman Eleven Wonders, they played very well and on another day could have scored three goals in the first half alone. Poor finishing and shot stopping heroics from Felix Annan were the reasons why Kotoko were not out of the game sooner.
Kotoko were too slow on the ball, sluggish and did not offer much attacking threat throughout the game. Maybe the introduction of Fabio Gama will provide the much needed attacking spark from midfield.
Coach Ignatious Osei-Kofi and his boys went up against Maxwell Konadu and got a draw, on another day they could have got all 3 points. Techiman Eleven Wonders should be a team to watch this season.
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