'Long way to go' for Harambee Stars in World cup campaign

Jun 03, 2021
  • Captain Dennis Oliech takes on a Malawian player. The two teams drew 0-0 saturday.(Photo:Shutterspeed)

'Harambee Stars have a long way to go.' That is how Malawian coach Kinnah Phiri summed up Kenya’s performance after his team outplayed Kenya during Saturday’s World Cup qualifying match at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

A damning indictment of a team that has spent the last two weeks plotting for the match under much secrecy away from the nosy media and a curious public.

But with a far from impressive start to their campaign, the veil is off now. Kimanzi’s team can be judged and rated on the public score card.

Whether Kimanzi chooses to stick to his closed door training and media gag policy is of little significance. Of paramount importance is for Stars to pick themselves in the shortest time possible ahead of their next match on Saturday against Namibia in Windhoek.

Against Malawi, Stars cobbled up a lethargic display for the better part of the match after huffing and puffing in the first quarter of an hour.

The returning captain Dennis Oliech had been billed as the ultimate trump card in Kimanzi’s game plan, but not even the AJ Auxerre man managed a decent shot on goal in the match.

Malawi goalkeeper Simplex Nthara was virtually on holiday between the sticks. Much was expected from a ‘crowded’ Kenyan midfield, but in the absence of MacDonald Mariga,his younger brother Victor Mugubi and Humphrey Mieno failed to impose themselves in the centre of the pack.

Jamal Mohammed was a complete flop by his high standards. Wide men Kevin Kimani and Patrick Oboya made a handful decent delivery in spasms which, however, came to naught.

The back four, from which rugged center half Pascal Ochieng was missing through injury, was profligate. Brian Mandela and Joackins Atudo, were not the best of central defensive pairing, though fullbacks James Situma and Cliffton MIkheso, on his first international cap, performed fairly.

The only gem in the Kenyan team was Tusker goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch, whose man of the match performance spared Kenya the blushes with number of fine saves as the Malawian threatened to stun Kenya late in the game.

His standout save was in the 78th minute when he stretched full length to keep out Mwafulirwa Russell dipping header on the line. Though missing atlest four of their key players, the visitors took time to settle but when they did, they dictated the tempo of the match.

Mwafulirwa, teenage striker Robin Ngalande and captain Joseph Kamwenda were the standout players for the Flames.

The remarkable performance in Nairobi left coach Phiri fancying his team’s chances against Nigeria who they play against at home next weekend.

"We have upset Egypt, DR Congo and Guinea at home - so Nigeria can be another victim”, a confident Phiri said after the match.

The Super Eagles will kick off their Group F campaign at home to Namibia, Sunday.

 

 

Nesta Kizito

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