FA Cup Final: Seidu Bancey delivers double for Kotoko

Fiifi Anaman at the Accra Sports Stadium
This was a final that went right to the last second.

It was also one that came to life right from the onset. Once the first kick was made, it was straight to business, the fireworks erupting in spectacular fashion.

Inter Allies, the underdogs, had a golden opportunity to race into a dream early lead just seconds after kickoff, but they failed to make it count. Senegalese winger Talla Ndiaye failed to beat Kotoko goalkeeper Joseph Addo in a one-on-one from 12 yards after being delightfully played through by partner Abdul Fatawu Safiu.  Their coach, Hebert Addo, paced about his technical area, visibly disappointed. He knew it was an opportunity too precious to waste.

That moment of explosiveness got the game going, and Inter Allies milked every bit of the psychological advantage, controlling the ball away from the shell-shocked Kotoko players.

But Kotoko – playing in their 12th FA Cup final; third in four years – would recover quickly, with winger Abdul Aziz Yusif racing into the box and hitting the side net against the run of play.

A few minutes later, the Porcupine Warriors hit the jackpot on their second attempt at goal, taking the lead. Richard Mpong capitalized on a case of defensive communication, latching unto Inter Allies right back Owusu Ansah’s header back to his keeper by smashing the ball into the roof of the net with his weaker left foot.

One would have thought that this appetite-whetting start would set-up a pulsating rest of the half.

But that was it.
The fire with which the game commenced steadily quenched, as the initial excitement was sucked out of the game by both teams’ strange loss of aggression. The urgency became lost, the enthusiasm too, as both teams seemed to have forgotten the occasion.

The worrying slump in standards – largely mirroring the boring, soulless nature of last year’s – was only neutralized by the fans in the stadium, who sang and chanted vociferously to keep the atmosphere charged.

It took an equalizer from Inter Allies 13 minutes into the second half for the game to regain its consciousness. Ndiaye Talla made up for his early miss, slotting the ball in from 15 yards after being set up by Sheriff Mohammed.

The influence of the goal was telling, as the game opened up with both teams going fearlessly at each other. It was anybody’s game at that point, and both sets of players knew that, letting themselves go in what became as exhilarating end to end affair.

There were countless attacks, countless counter attacks, and countless wayward shots too. The shots that were on target were feeble, and the attacks that were threatening were nullified by brilliant pieces of defending at both ends – notably from Kotoko’s Abeiku Ainooson and Inter Allie’s Joseph Aidoo. The stakes were raised higher with each passing minute, with players becoming increasingly beastly, not ready to let slip.

At that rate, it was always going to drag on to extra time. It was always going to go down to which team wanted it more; which team was ready to endure and fight against the odds of frustration and tired limbs.

It helped that both teams had their motivations: Kotoko – who went into the game having sealed their third consecutive league title – were bent on chasing down a chronically elusive double, whereas Inter Allies, who had been the season’s surprise package, were inspired by the prospects of a major upset – a ‘cupset’.

As the Accra Stadium floodlights were switched on, illuminating a warm evening, the intensity of play persisted, tension hitting dizzying heights. Kotoko came closest to snatching a winner, with Michael Akuffo curling a free kick from 25 yards straight unto the Inter Allies crossbar.

The palpable fear of penalty shoot-outs pumped up the urgency as the game headed for a thrilling final few minutes.

Then, right at the death, with seconds to the full time whistle, it happened.

Jordan Opoku, Kotoko’s veteran diminutive midfielder, got on the end of a wide pass, controlled the ball well, and fired it across goal. Goalkeeper Osei Kwame, who had been well composed all game, had a rare moment of panic as he spilled the ball, in the process breaking the hearts of Inter Allies fans, and indeed the numerous Hearts of Oak fans who had turned up to cheer on the Tema-based side against their bitterest rivals Kotoko.

In what was a dramatic moment of irony, Seidu Bancey – perhaps Kotoko’s most vilified player over the last two years – found himself at the right place at the right time, arriving in the box to slot home the loose ball, sending the Kotoko fandom in the stadium into a state of utter ecstacy.

For some reason, Bancey – as had been the case in Kotoko’s last three matches in all competitions – was given the captain’s armband for the game, in the presence of captain Michael Akuffo, and other more teammates such as Amos Frimpong, and Jordan Opoku.

It was a weird decision, but it did the trick. The lanky Bancey popped up when it mattered most and delivered Kotoko’s 8th FA Cup trophy, and alongside it, the fabled double they’ve openly craved all these years.

Asante Kotoko XI : Joseph Addo – Rahim Ayew, Amos Frimpong, Abeiku Ainooson, Eric Donkor  (ben Adama 75′)- Abdul Aziz Yusif (Isaac Boakye 61′), Michael Akuffo, Issah Yakubu, Richard Mpong (Prince Baffoe 53′) – Jordan Opoku – Seidu Bancey ©

Inter Allies XI: Osei Kwame – Owusu Ansah , Joseph Aidoo ©, Baba Mensah (David David 50′), Patrick Kpozo – Ndiaye Talla (Simon Martey 74′), Sarbah Lawson, Niare Benogo, Frederick Yamoah – Mohammed Sheriff (Prosper Kassim 103′), Abdul Fatawu Safiu

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