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GPL: 5 things we learned from opening weekend

Fifteen (15) goals scored across 8 league centers, the opening weekend of the Ghana premier league was a deeply satisfying one for a lot of football fans.

Even if your team was on the losing side of this weekend, you’d still be excited that league action has returned to our stadia for the first time in 5 months. That’s a lot time without football. But once the action itself kicked off, everyone almost forgot the preceding conversations surrounding our league. From happy new boys to sad old boys, the Ghana Premier League did not fail to glitter on the opening weekend. Here are five things we learned from an incredible weekend:

1. Every team is stronger at home

If there’s any thing this weekend’s Ghana premier league matches have demonstrated, it is the confirmation that every team is very strong at home. Of all the 8 games played, only Dreams FC picked a victory on the road with all of the remaining 7 games ending in wins for the home sides. It’s always been the case in the Ghana premier league with every team looking to take maximum advantage of their home games. The ease with which some of the away teams were dispatched was particularly very impressive. Apart from Techiman City and Accra Hearts of Oak who labored to victories against Berekum Chelsea and Edubiase FC respectively, all of the other games were arguably quite comfortable victories for the home teams.

2. There’s massive enthusiasm for the local league

The raging argument all off-season has been the lack of interest in the Ghana league. For all of those who made the argument that interest in the league was dying, they used the paltry attendances last season to buttress their points. However, it appears the fiery media debate about the league has yielded positive result. All of the stadia across the 8 league centers recorded very high attendances. The Robert Mensah stadium in Cape Coast, the Nana Ameyaw Park in Techiman, the Len Clay Stadium in Obuasi and the Red Bull Arena in Sogakope were all filled to near capacity on Match Day 1. The Accra Sports stadium was buzzing and the atmosphere after Samuel Yeboah scored for the phobians was absolutely buzzing. The interest on social media was even more engaging. On twitter, the hashtag #GhPL was trending. So is it safe to say our league isn’t “foo” and “tantan” after all? Only time will tell.

3. No team is favorites…yet

One of the major discussion points during the off-season has been centered around which teams have done the best bit of business in the transfer window. Mostly, it’s been Aduana Stars and Kumasi Asante Kotoko that have been touted as favorites to reclaim the league title. Kotoko in particular, had so much depth in their squad. In fact, they played two different competitions with two different teams simultaneously. One of those teams, the weaker of the two, won the GHALCA G6 tournament in Sekondi. Kotoko also won every single pre-season cup that came their way. Aduana on the other hand, signed some of the biggest stars on the local scene and spent an average of GH¢ 1m on ten new players. However, both sides were easily dispatched by two of the young and exciting teams in the league. WAFA were delightful in their defeat of Kotoko, playing some great football in the process. Aduana Stars on the other hand flattered to deceive and Inter Allies made light work of them. It’s obvious that all of that pre-season talk doesn’t really mean much once you take to the field in the Ghana Premier league.

4. Old boys, Old problems; new boys, no problems

Watching the premier games from across the country, the results suggested that some of the old clubs have carried forward some baggage from last season. Let’s begin with Sekondi Hasaacas. They had just one win in 15 games away from home last season. It seems they’ve not and will not find a solution to their poor away form this season. I predicted a 3-1 loss for them but they took 3 from Wa All Stars without reply. Despite the firepower they possess upfront in Eric Bekoe and Samuel Afful, Hasaacas still don’t look like they are good enough to pick points away from home. And then there’s Aduana Stars. One of the reasons they didn’t win the league last season was because of their failure to pick up enough points on the road. With two wins and two draws, Aduana only managed to pick 8 points from a possible 45 points away from home. Nobody wins the league with this sort of away record. Aduana would have been champions if they managed to win just 5 games away from home. They’ve started on the same note, and they can’t be champions if they can only win games at Dormaa. Kotoko still don’t have a solution to their WAFA problem while Hearts of Oak still have a goal scoring problem. Too many old problems in a new season for the old boys. Two victories for two of the newly-promoted sides have sent signals of intent already. The most impressive of them came at the Robert Mensah stadium when John Owusu Oppong’s strike ensured Dreams FC continue their dream. Techiman City put all of the pre-season controversy behind them to get the better of their regional rivals Berekum Chelsea to pick all three points. TCFC did not lose a single game at home in Division one last season, and their intentions of making their “Lion’s Den” an impenetrable fortress has began well.

5. Goals! Goals! Goals! and more goals!

One of the arguments against the the Ghana Premier League has been its inability to produce quality goals and excitement. Anyone who monitored the league this weekend would have not only been impressed with the number of goals scored (a whopping 15), but the quality as well. Both of WAFA’s goals were superbly taken goals with Samuel Tetteh’s strike particularly catching the eye. Maxwell Baako’s superb brace for Wa All Stars were equally great goals – his second, a brilliant solo effort. 15 goals in 8 games, an average of 1.87 per game, are the sort of thing you only see in the Bundesliga. The standard of football is also a step up from last season. The intensity in the WAFA vs Kotoko and Ashgold vs Medeama games are particularly worth a mention. And since we’re on it, the champions showed character and composure in securing victory against a very strong Medeama side. It’s easy to see why Ashgold decided to spend so much money on the Nuhu brothers. They produced a performance reminiscent of their Edubiase days, both scoring to give the miners a strong start to the defense of their title.

6. I’m not such a bad predictor after all

Ok let’s make that six because we need to talk about my Match Day 1 predicitions. I predicted victories for Ashgold, Wa All Stars, and Accra Hearts of Oak, and Bechem United. They all won, even though I got the scorelines wrong (That’s always hard). I predicted draws for Techiman City, Dwarfs, and Inter Allies, but they all claimed victories. That’s 4 out of 7 games this weekend. Not bad, is it?