Ulinzi eye Smouha scalp in Alexandria

By alex wafula
Mar 10, 2021
  • James Saruni, the Ulinzi Stars captain knows the tough challenge in Egypt and has urged his players to be vigilant. (SNA. File Photo)

Ulinzi Stars face Egyptian side Smouha in the first leg tie of the CAF Confederations Cup first leg in Alexandria on Friday night with an aim of a favoravle result.

The military side made it to the first round of a continental tie for the first time in their history and coach Benjamin Nyangweso is keen to make the journey a memorable one.

“After we won the first match against Al Hilal Benghazi, our confidence rose. We know this is a different and bigger challenge. Our target is to get a good result away from home, in the least a draw,” a confident Nyangweso told Sports news Arena.

Smouha are currently fifth in the Egyptian League and finished third in the 2015/2016 season. The Egyptians also reached the group stages of the CAF Champions League in 2015.

But as the two sides lock horns at the Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria on Friday night, Ulinzi will not be thinking about the pedigree of their hosts.

“We know what they are capable of. Playing away is never easy. We just have to put ourselves in good psychological shape and ensure we remain tactically disciplined in order to get a good result,” Nyangweso added.

Makwata leaves Ulinzi

The team will miss the services of John-Mark Makwatta who has been their top scorer for the last two seasons. Makwatta has resigned from the army as he contemplates a full professional career with  Slovakian side Nitra.

Makwatta played in the return leg of their preliminary round tie against Al Hilal and produced the assist for the lone goal. Having scored 26 goals in all competitions last season, Nyangweso knows it will not be easy to replace him.

“It is sad for us, but as a team we are happy for his progress. I am pleased that he has gotten an opportunity to try out his career in Europe. We will miss him and his impact in the team,” a disappointed Nyangweso added.

In Makwatta’s place, Nyangweso will peg his hopes on new signing Baron Oketch, Oscar Wamalwa and Enosh Ochieng to bag goals in Egypt.

Oketch hasn’t hit the ground running yet since moving to Nakuru on a season-long loan spell from Gor Mahia.

Skipper James Saruni has urged his team mates to put in their best away before the return leg in a week’s time in Nairobi.

“Egyptians are very fast and we can’t afford to give them space to run. We need to ensure we are alert throughout the 90 minutes. Also, we have to ensure we don’t concede and if we get opportunities, getting an away goal will be vital,” Saruni said. 

The match will be played at 7 p.m. EAT (1600hrs GMT)

Kenya drops in Fifa rankings

Meanwhile, Kenya has dropped one place in the latest FIFA rankings, moving to 88th. The national team has not played any international match since beating Liberia at home in a friendly match on November 15 last year.

But the team will have an opportunity of raking up more ranking points when they take on neighbors Uganda and DR Congo in two friendly matches on March 23 and 26 in Nairobi.

Kenya traveled to Kampala last year and drew 0-0.  Against DR Congo in another friendly match in Lubumbashi, Harambee Stars won 1-0. This was coach Stanley Okumbi’s biggest victories since his  appointment last year.

The coach has already assembled a squad of 26 local-based players which has several debutants.

Western Stima’s Maurice Ojwang’, Posta Rangers’ Joseph Kuria, Ulinzi Stars’ Sammy Onyango, Kakamega Homeboyz’s Jeremiah Wanjala and AFC Leopards under 20 sensational striker Vincent Oburu have all earned their first invites.

Full Harambee Stars squad

Goalkeepers: David Okello (Tusker), Boniface Oluoch (Gor Mahia), Patrick Matasi (Posta Rangers)

Defenders: David Mwangi (Mathare United), Eugene Asike (Tusker), Jockins Atudo (Posta Rangers), Maurice Ojwang (Western Stima), Musa Mohammed (Gor Mahia), Robinson Kamura (AFC Leopards), Sammy Meja (Thika United), Simon Mbugua (Posta Rangers).

Midfielders: Amos Asembeka (Sony Sugar), Benard Mang’oli (AFC Leopards), Erick Johanna (Un-attached), Francis Kahata (Gor Mahia), Humphrey Mieno (Tusker FC), Joseph Kuria (Posta Rangers), Kenneth Muguna (Gor Mahia), Noah Wafula (Tusker FC), Ochieng Ovella (Kariobangi Sharks), Osborne Monday (Kariobangi Sharks), Samuel Onyango (Ulinzi Stars), Whyvonne Isuza (AFC Leopards).

Strikers: Jeremiah Wanjala (Kakamega Homeboyz), Mark Makwatta (FC Nitra- Slovakia), Vincent Oburu.