The Ghanaians have thoroughly impressed in Africa this year but have a little more to do to reach the dizzying next level
By: Sammie Frimpong
They’re almost there — yes, almost, and only a loss when they trek to play MO Bejaia in less than a fortnight would obstruct Medeama‘s quest for Group A’s final qualifying ticket to the 2016 Caf Confederation Cup’s knockout stage, after Sunday’s impressive 3-2 result against group leaders TP Mazembe in Sekondi.
The Yellow and Mauves have unarguably been the revelation of the campaign. They’ve beaten opponents from Africa’s north (Al–Ittihad Tripoli, Al–Ahly Shendi), south (Mamelodi Sundowns), east (Young Africans) and centre (Mazembe), often doing so in stunning fashion. And while their domestic business suffered at the start, Medeama have admirably learnt to dovetail action on that front with continental duties as the season has progressed. Currently 6th on the Ghana Premier League table with a home game in hand, Medeama are also on the brink of seizing a huge slice of Confederation Cup history — a pretty perilous brink, admittedly.
To secure that remaining slot — as mentioned at the outset — the trip to Algeria needs to be successfully navigated. Playing in North Africa has always proven a banana peel for Ghanaian sides since, well, forever. Medeama themselves have already lost in Libya in the competition, though recovering in the reverse to dump their opponents on aggregate. This time, however, there’d be no second chances. Medeama have to devise a way not to lose to emerge unscathed and, as league rivals Ashantigold would testify, pulling that off isn’t as easy as it sounds as Bejaia are quite a force at their fortress. The Miners, you’d recall, were eliminated at the first hurdle of the 2016 Caf Champions League by Bejaia after losing heavily at the Stade de l’Unité Maghrébine, and Medeama would thus need to be wary and fully prepared.
Bejaia may have lost their fifth group match to Young Africans on Saturday but they remain just three points behind Medeama, and could sneak through ahead of the Ghanaians via some tie-breaker if they do claim the showdown. It’s especially daunting for Medeama, given that haven’t won a single game on the road thus far and have lost three.
Fortunately, Medeama wield a major key to overcoming whichever barrier they’d encounter in Bejaia. Much to their credit, they’ve netted in all of their last three away fixtures — albeit eventually losing two of those — and have done so fairly early, too. They memorably struck under two minutes at both Sundowns and Mazembe [before capitulating to three goals from the hosts on each occasion] while, in the 1-1 draw with Yanga, Medeama neutralized the Tanzanians’ own quick strike by netting within the first third of an hour. However unsettling an early goal by a daring visitor could prove, though, the ability to hold on to a lead — preferably even adding to it — is worth much more, and it’s from that lesson Medeama should take their cue.
The ball really is in their court now and, though they’d have to dig deep into their reserves to produce a favourable outcome on August 23, Prince Owusu’s men have shown they do possess what it takes and success does appear well within reach at this crucial point. They’re almost there.