The Kenya national team Harambee Stars may have secured a spot in the second round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers courtesy of the barren draw at home to Mauritius in the return leg of the tie but the hosts left a lot to be desired from the output on the pitch.
After a 5 – 2 win over the same team in the first leg on Wednesday 7 October, Kenya was expected to roll over the visitors but the visitors came a better composed side and ready for the return leg. They spotted a better defensive outlook and troubled Harambee Stars in the midfield even though they were not so potent in attack.
Here we explore the main failures for Harambee Stars in the game as they head to the second round where they face a more serious threat in Cape Verde.
Head coach Bobby Williamson, playing at home was expected to employ a more attacking strategy to finish off the visitors after the first leg win but the coach opted for a more conservative approach in the home tie and while the visitors were more versatile, Kenya stuck with Plan A from start to finish.
He used a 4 – 4 – 1 – 1 system in the return leg as opposed to the 4 – 2 – 1 – 3 he employed in the first leg, in effect reducing the team’s attacking potency against a team that both on paper and on the pitch posed very little threat thus the shutout.
The coach rested a number of key players for the return tie, most notably Allan Wanga, Anthony Akumu and Harun Shakava, replacing them with Eric Johanna, Kevin Amwayi and Brian Mandela. The changes meant a wekened attack and from the onset, the possibility that this would be another high scoring game was very bleak.
With Akumu benched, Johanna Omollo, a player gifted in attack, was forced to stick alongside skipper Victor Wanyama, to do defensive duties and though he went forward on a number of occasions, he did not play with the freedom he had in Mauritius when he played in front of the defensive midfielders, and scored twice.
Kelvin Amwayi, one of the players handed starts failed to grab the chance, the game being his first ever start for the national team. Deployed on the right wing, most of his runs were checked well outside the danger zone while the few crosses he managed were dealt with easily.
The best chance he got in the game, a nice cut back from Wanyama, ended in disappointment as the Ulinzi striker blasted the ball high and wide and in the end coach Williamson will be reflecting on whether he needs the midfielder in the Cape Verde game.
Eric Johanna was also getting his first start for the national team in the game and he was deployed as a second striker, playing behind the main striker, Michael Olunga. Though he had a number of good touches as he played full time, he failed to live to his billing, going by his stats in the local league.
He did not provide the telling passes and failed to test the Mauritius keeper but a fact is that he bears some good hope for the team.
A big factor that can’t be overlooked is the role played by senior players. Arnold Origi, the Lillestroem keeper was omitted from the squad owing to troubles with the federation and though the team has a good keeper in Boniface Oluoch, the Gor Mahia keeper lacks the command posed by Origi.
The Kenya defence is a much better outfit with Origi in goal and for the good of the team, the federation should work to bring the keeper back.
To beat Cape Verde in the next round, head coach Williamson will have to prepare more than just one strategy for the two matches and drop the sole striker strategy since he will be facing a more serious opponent.