Asante Kotoko were left disappointed on Sunday as they fell 3-1 to Nkana FC of Zambia in the Caf Confederation Cup group stage clash.
Songne Yacouba scored for the Porcupine Warriors at the Nkana Stadium in Kitwe but a Ronald Kampamba double and a Freddy Tshimenga penalty secured all three points for the home side.
The result has left Charles 'CK' Akonnor's side bottom of Group C with three points while Kalampa, with six marks, move top of the table.
Below are some observations from the Kotoko-Zesco showdown:
After a heavy dose of criticism for his shyness in front of goal, the Burkinabe responded in a spectacular fashion, driving a 23rd-minute free-kick into the net two minutes after Nkana had taken the lead. His goal celebration said it all: That was some relief!
Although he couldn't convert a few more chances, he will no doubt be happy to have finally registered his first goal of the championship and exorcised his devils. With five assists to his name in eight games, the 27-year-old remains a crucial element to the Porcupine Warriors' hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
Defence a mess
Kotoko's weakest department in their African campaign this season has been their defence. On Sunday, the rearguard reminded everyone that the concerns are never misplaced as they literally handed three points to the home side on a silver platter.
In the 18th minute, a clumsy Abdul Ganiyu tackle on Walter Bwalya handed Kalampa a penalty for their first goal. Then Amos Frimpong's clearing header only fell in the path of Bwalya, who put Ronald Kampamba through on goal and the No.9 wasted no time to make it 2-1 after Yacouba had equalised for Kotoko. In the 53rd minute, an unmarked Kampamba had the easiest of jobs of freely heading the ball into the net for their third goal when Gift Zulu delivered a cross into the box. Akonnor did admit after the game that his defence let him down. Sadly, that was not the first time they did as their inefficiency has been shown in almost every goal conceded in Africa this campaign.
Elsewhere, Kotoko looked decent
Aside from the schoolboy defending, Kotoko looked pretty decent on the day. The midfield duo of Umar Basiru and Kwame Bonsu gave a good account of themselves, the supporting attacking trio of Safiu Abdul Fatawu, Maxwell Baakoh and Emmanuel Gyamfi were a constant menace for Nkana's defence while Yacouba did a good job as a lone striker, even if he could have scored more than one goal.
But for the early moments after recess when Kotoko looked completely lost, the Porcupine Warriors controlled the game with a higher share of possession. And oh, although goalkeeper Felix Annan thrice picked the ball from his net, he was, as usual, a warrior in the post.
Akonnor plan B ineffective
That Kotoko dominated the game but failed to break down Nkana's defence when it mattered most leaves questions about coach Akonnor. It was either that he lacked a plan B, or it obviously didn't work if he had one; with the benefit of doubt, I'll go for the latter.
That's surely an area the former Ghana captain must work on if he wants to see his side in the quarter-finals. Dominating obsession without the ability to unlock defences is nothing but a useless effort.
Home games will be decisive
Nkana have moved top of the table after the win on Sunday. Zesco United - also of Zambia - and Al Hilal Omdurman of Sudan are tied on points on the second position following their 1-1 draw in the other Group C game on Sunday, while Kotoko sit bottom.
But for yesterday's drawn game, all the teams have won their matches at home. The dynamics, then, put Al Hilal in pole position to make the quarter-finals after picking a point on the road. To make the next round, Kotoko cannot afford to give away anything at home. At least a point in their only remaining away game - a trip to Zesco - will be more than crucial.