Tusker; Odhiambo- Buki, Wahome, Kiiza, Omar- Monday, Osumba, Aucho- Kimani, Omunuk, Alwanga
AFC Leopards; Matasi- Wafula, Saleh, Situma, Juma- Imbalambala, Mangoli, Mudde, Mieno- Keli, Wafula
Kenya’s second and third most successful clubs served up a 0-0 draw that “neutrals” would certainly rank as entertaining.
Tusker was seeking to pull away from Gor Mahia at the top of the league whilst AFC Leopards looked to continue their good form in the quest for a top eight finish.
Elaboration vs Directness
The first half witnessed a fast paced game with two attacking styles. Tusker played a proactive elaborate style in.their attempts to break AFC Leopards with their quick short passing game. AFC, on the other hand, showed respect for their opponents; sitting deep and trying to get the ball over the high Tusker defense instead of going toe to toe in the middle.
Tusker was passing the ball very well in the opening minutes but their deliveries were incredibly poor. They truly are the most technical team in the KPL and how they worked the ball despite
AFC packing the midfield is testament of this; leave alone the fact that a usually proactive Ingwe side resorted to being reactive.
AFC fielded a 4-3-1-2 system and their width, now customary, coming from their two versatile forwards. The three holding midfielders stuck to their zones in front of the defense and this never worked against a team full of movement like Tusker. They changed to pressing their opponents immediately the ball moved into their half and this coincided with AFC’s ascendancy in the game. More of translating into than coinciding. Leopards were now able to pump balls forward as their midfielders now
had permission to move out of congested areas instead of rigidly sticking to their zones.
While Tusker too had a pressing structure, what caught the eye more was how high the defense line was. Perhaps Kimanzi was
confident in the fact that his team is superior to AFC in playing on a
“smaller” pitch that the danger of AFC running in behind didn’t concern him much. Kimanzi also needed to deal with a twin strike force in his 4-3-3 and he did. Instead of surrendering a midfielder to make it 3 vs 2 at
the back he used a pendulating defense line; only one fullback was allowed to move forward at
a time. This ensured Keli’s and Wafula’s occasional movements wide were tracked. The highline was also maintained well by Odhiambo’s sweeping activity from the sticks. AFC did get a sniff
behind that line but their poor shooting technique denied the team even a single shot on target in the first half. Jacob Keli at fault for not converting a 2 vs 2 opportunity. All in all Kimanzi had stopped AFC’s threat but the attacking coach couldn’t get past his opponents press.
The two sides returned with their shapes intact but their energies down. Mudde was asked to shuttle forward and Tusker responded by keeping their fullbacks in position. The game thus turned into a central attack
stalemate; both sides not willing to free up their full backs in fear of counter-attacks. Of course Tusker were excelling more in this but AFC’s quality (and physicality!!!) kept the Anthony
Kimani’s of this world in check. Alwanga and Omunuk also fizzled away as the game descended to
De Jong was the first to try and rectify things; bringing on Okwemba to have another midfielder capable of distributing balls but Tusker maintained their possession dominance (for the breweries, technique isn’t an option off the bench). Kimanzi too made changes; bringing in Dunga and going for a 4-4-2 and he was almost vindicated. His side played beautiful one-two’s but Were showed poor ability when tasked with finishing the move. AFC didn’t
respond in kind, instead bringing on a defender to effectively end the game.
Tusker will be most disappointed as they have failed to build a substantial lead on Gor Mahia (away on CECAFA); for AFC an easy fixture list should guarantee a top eight finish.