SC TIER 1 FINAL PREVIEW: Kotoko Battle Karela for Glory & Africa


Across the Valley of Elah, they stood: a ruddy, modest youth versus a towering, overconfident giant.

We know how it turned out — victory for the former courtesy one helluva slingshot and faith in his God — but that episode would provide context for many mismatches even millennia later: the David-vs-Goliath narrative, as it is now known.

This weekend, one more instance of such will play out when Karela United take on Asante Kotoko at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium to determine which team wins the Normalization Committee’s Special Premier League Competition and grabs the sole slot for Ghana in the 2019/20 Caf Champions League.

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The smart money, of course, is on Kotoko, Ghana’s most successful club. The Reds have barely recovered from their last African assignment — injured stars Maxwell Baakoh and Richard Senanu are still out, for instance — in which they narrowly missed out on a ticket to the knockout stage of the Caf Confederation Cup.

Yet Kotoko seek to go one better, and only little Karela stand in the great porcupine’s way. Kotoko will feel confident, playing on home territory and traditionally standing taller than the opposition. Still, they’d better not turn up in Goliath mode, lest they suffer the smug bully’s tragic fate. Karela take no prisoners — not even mighty Ashantigold (to whom Kotoko lost only last Wednesday) at the latter’s Len Clay fortress. Indeed, the manner in which top-flight freshers Karela reached the final is warning enough to Kotoko, but the Aiyinase-based outfit is capable of more than just a last-gasp winner.

Karela is an ambitious force — usually invincible at home, often daring on the road — that has survived the demise of a powerful financier and the termination of a debut Premier League season during which they flew quite high. They have even sold two of their best players to Kotoko, yet the Karela train has barely slowed.

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Forging the formidable unit Karela have become is tough-talking Johnson Smith, a former Kotoko coach. And while Smith has a brave bunch of ‘Davids’ at his disposal, the ‘stone’ most poised to bring Kotoko down is lethal forward Diawisie Taylor — another coveted by Sunday’s big opponents. Between Taylor and Kotoko’s similarly prolific Abdul Fatawu Safiu, there is a top-scorer’s prize to contest, setting up a nice sub-plot for the final.

Despite not topping their respective zones in the competition’s league format, both teams sealed their berths with bold knockout wins nicked away to difficult opponents — Kotoko via a shootout, Karela in added time.

On June 23, the margins could be just as slim. Should they even prove wider, the challenge would be worth it.

Sammie Frimpong — Daily Mail GH

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