Sunday, June 21, 2009

Matchday Pass: GPL week 24

With 21 points left to play for, no one can really say for sure which clubs are likely to take the crown. Neither can anyone say who’ll be relegated in the Glo Premier League.

Hearts – RTU

This was especially so after Hearts, the league leaders were beaten for the third time in a row, this time by King Faisal. Hearts were beaten 1-0 by a nine-man team in Kumasi and the immediate action for the team’s management was to sack Kosta Papic. The Serbian left the team at the top of the log with 44 points.

RTU will undoubtedly feel buoyed by this (temporary) power vacuum in the Phobian camp. At the moment, the team from the north of Ghana have 27 points with a poor away record this season – they have won no points on their travels. They lost 3-0 to Tema Youth last Wednesday.

Certainly, their coach Abdul Razak knows that taking a point at the Ohene Djan stadium would be a fine result.

“It is very possible that we can beat Hearts at home. I have been telling my boys that they should go out there and play their hearts out.”

This poor RTU away form should help the neophyte Hearts bench pull through with the win the club needs to up confidence. It is now confirmed that although Sam Johnson (Papic assistant coach) would be on the bench, the team has employed the services of Nii Noi Thompson.

The former Bechem Chelsea man did a good job with that team and managed a respectable top-six position using what was a largely considered average team. And so with him ‘observing’ and Sam Johnson doing the real work, RTU should expect a resurgent Phobian side.

Tema Youth – Bechem Chelsea

Both teams are owned by the same man. Emmanuel Kyeremeh is a partner in the firm NDK Financiers, a prestigious financial services provider in Ghana. Quiet, intelligent and with an eye for good business, the man first had Tema Youth as his baby before adopting Bechem Chelsea. Who would he be supporting?

But on the field it has been the latter team that has fared better this season. They have 32 points and could, mathematically, finish in the top three. Although that looks quite impossible Chelsea can take solace from the fact that the season can be done with them ahead of giants Asante Kotoko.

However, Tema Youth would also be looking to take any number of points from this game as they also badly need to improve their position. They lost 1-0 to Wa All Stars last Wednesday while Chelsea continued having a good season with a win over Eleven Wise.

All Blacks - Faisal

With All Blacks losing in their last game and King Faisal’s Kwaku Opoku’s 9th minute goal giving them a vital win, this game has all sorts of meanings for both teams.

Alhaji Gruzah’s boys are still on a high but they have to come down to earth, stay focused and take a win from the Swedru team.

As for All Blacks, seven matches to end the season sees them in a precarious position and any further slip ups can take them into relegation.

Lions - Liberty

As Hearts of Oak lost ground, Heart of Lions mounted the pressure on the leaders with a crucial win against Sporting Mirren. Now all they have to do today is to get some unanswered goals gaianst Liberty Professionals. A few years ago, this match would have been one of the top liners of the week. Sadly, Liberty’s slump in form means that they are not such serious contenders anymore.

Former Black Stars and Liberty coach Jones Attuquayefio has been taken ill and this has been linked with the regression of his team. The man has, for so long, held the fort for the Dansoman team that his sudden departure seems to have shaken its mental state.

The man who replaced the ailing Jones is Isaac Acquaye and he says he has been impressed with the team’s output in the past weeks. Incidentally the Lions coach Paa Kwesi Fabin is also confident that his side can sustain their winning streak.

“Like I said, the boys are committed than ever and are ready to kill off any club.

"Liberty will be no different they are a good side but will not survive in Kpando.”

As it is, Liberty has to put that behind them and get a point or a win in the Volta Region. What has happened to Liberty is that they have also been ravaged by injuries and their 13th position may be shaky against Lions, who are second.

Kotoko - All Stars

Asante Kotoko’s winning run and their resurgence kept at bay last Wednesday when RTU drew 1-1 with them. Another team from the north of Ghana would be in Kumasi and if the champions are to pose any real threat to the top four teams in the league they have to get this win.

Wa All Stars, owned by the president of the Ghana Football Association, won their last game and would not be an easy side to beat. They have been resilient and shown they can score when least expected. That said, Kotoko would rely on Alex Asamoah to spearhead their drive to remain unbeaten since Herbert Addo took over from Isaac Opeele Boateng.

Herbert Addo said: “We failed to pick all three points against RTU – we cannot do the same when we welcome Wa All Stars.

“We have to play against them with a renewed hope.

“The plan has to change.”

And, as many an observer would note, it’s been a long time that Kotoko have been in fifth and nine points behind the leaders with seven games to go.

XI Wise - Mirren

Under the new management of former Black Stars icons Charles Akunnor and Nii Odartey Lamptey, Eleven Wise have been handled very professionally. I had a good laugh the other day when I saw both mean wearing matching pale red shirts and ties at one of their games. And I said to myself, “European coaching is here!”

But that is great, considering that Ghanaian football needs such people to make the league look well-run. Bechem Chelsea took the day at Eleven Wise’s last game in the middle regions of Ghana. They’ve had to travel the long way back home in the south-west and one can only hope that they wouldn’t be too fatigued.

Before that Bechem buckle, Eleven Wise had drawn with All Stars before that – and their coach isn’t happy and knows they need a win.

“We need to pick ourselves up and very fast against Mirren.

“It will always be difficult playing against relegation threatened clubs, they come fighting really hard.

“And will take composure and extra effort from my boys if they want to pick all three points.”

Then again, Sporting Mirren have not been much of a team this term and one can confidently say that they would go down. They’ve only got 19 points from 23 matches.

B. Arsenals - Hasaacas

Arsenals have been super - for want of a better word – at their Golden City Park home grounds. They still are yet to lose a game there in almost three seasons and Hasaacas do not look like the team to do that.

However, Arsenals’ away form has been suspect and it was underlined when they lost to 4-2 to Liberty in their last game. Hasaacas, although they haven’t been excellent this season, played great football and had a deserved 4-0 win away at Kessben.

As this is an away game for them, one would expect them to mount a challenge though I maintain that a win would be a miracle.

Kessben - AshGold

AshGold continued to climb out of the drop zone with a 2-1 win against Gamba All Blacks in their last game. It has been almost divine, the return of the team’s self belief in recent weeks.

They make the short hop to Kessben who were beaten emphatically and hope to make an impressive to do it again.

Despite a 4-0 win at the Sekondi Sports Stadium against Kessben, Hasaacas still remain amongst the bottom three.

*All quotes from the Graphic Sports and All Sports