Three goals in either half were enough for the well-oiled Ghanaian side Asante Kotoko to squeeze a 3-2 victory over Cameroon champions, Coton Sport away in Yaounde on Sunday.
Guided by former Ghana captain, Charles Akonnor, the visitors played with no complex, with their offensive system sending quick signals from the start.
Songne Yacouba's two early clear misses failed to invite caution from the local defence and they exploited the porous central axis. At the 10th minute, Emmanuel Gyamfi raided the Coton zone and was surprised at the little opposition. His attempt was well on target for the curtain raiser.
Maxwell Baakoh repeated the action with a similar result at the 30th minute mark. From thence it was clear qualification was eluding Cotonsport's company. Despite scoring from the penalty spot near the half time line courtesy veteran Daouda Kamilou, the public was not convinced of a turn around.
The second half was just a mirror image of the first with Kotoko attacking while Coton defended. They were then pushed to error as Boubacary Sali's back pass fell to on rushing Abdul Fatawu Safiu who crucified the home side with a close bullet on 50 minutes
Gueme Araina tapped in from close range after a defence mix up on 71 minutes but it was insufficient to disorganise the well-oriented team from Kumasi. At full time Asante won 3-2 to inch close to a group phase qualification, leaving Cotonsport to regret the absence of their injured playmaker Moise Sakava and suspended midfielder Serge Seko.
The return leg will take place next weekend in Kumasi with the winner advancing to the group stage of the second-tier continental club championship.
Badu Agyemang (Midfielder, Asante Kotoko)
We came here knowing it would be a tough game, but the realities on the field were different. We had an easier than expected ride and it gives us more motivation to prepare for the return leg at home. It's true no two games are the same but we have a great chance of moving to the next stage.
Bertin Ebwelle (Head Coach, Coton Sport)
I can't really tell what happened. We prepared well, we had all at our disposal but we knew the absence of our two players (Moise Sakava and Serge Seko) was going to serve a handicap. We facilitated things for our opponents and are condemned to an exploit in Kumasi. It's possible but we need hard work and luck to move on.