By Fredrick Nadulli,
Kenya huffed and puffed to beat Comoros in Nairobi as preliminary qualifiers for Afcon 2015 got underway in selected venues across the continent.Granted,the Harambee Stars have the upper hand going into the return fixture in a fortnight,but going by the brazen bravado displayed by the islanders,we are walking a tight rope.
The slim lead,coupled with Kenya’s historic dismal away record are enough to cause jitters.The last time the national team won away was in 2003 in Cape Verde,a year before the nations cup in Tunisia which Kenya graced.We have not come close to Africa’s biggest showpiece since then.
GLIMMER OF HOPE
Be that as it may,certain positives can be drawn from the Comoros encounter that offer a glimmer of hope going forward.Kenyans were downcast when news filtered in that first choice keeper Arnold Origi would not be available,asking to be excused.His deputy Duncan Ochieng is still out injured.
Bandari’s Wilson Obungu proved an able replacement with a sublime perfomance between the sticks.Lawrence Olum was a hitherto unknown name in the country.He arrived barely 24 hours to kickoff from the US and together with David Ochieng held the central defence watertight before muscle cramps did him in.On the flanks,the perfomances of David Owino and Abud Omar,if not spectacular,were at the very least solid.
But it is in midfield,the engine room of any team,that Kenyans will draw the most positives.
Midfield general McDonald Mariga had a cameo appearance after almost two years out with injury,but the Inter man’s 15 minutes were enough to announce his comeback.
His power and influence in subsequent games will stand Kenya in good stead.Johanna Omollo got the lone goal,a gem of a goal.He covered every blade of grass,spraying passes and winning tackles to cover up for the inadequacies of Jamal Mohammed and Victor Wanyama.
Ayub Timbe finally came to the party after snubbing several call ups.The stocky maestro gave a commanding perfomance that left the country awed in admiration.To imagine that silky players like Francis Kahata and Peter Opiyo did not even make the squad,coach Adel Amrouche has a selection headache any coach would gladly wish for anytime.
In attack,former captain Dennis Oliech had a subdued and lukewarm perfomance.He lacked the service needed to afford him clear sight at goal,but the late introduction of Mariga finally awakened the beast in the Ajaccio man.Public opinion suggests perhaps playing him in central attack did not suit him.The pacy striker thrives on running at defenders from the flanks.
Preliminary matches are a dicey affair but if approached well with keen tactical awareness,Kenya can go past Comoros and either Liberia or Lesotho.Group stages are a different ball game with a different approach.Coach Amrouche has all the ammunition he requires for every battle,but who he deploys where is what matters.He is spoilt for choice.
N/B The writer is a former Kenyan International and Mathare United long serving player.
/ 1 year ago
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