With the ensuing local football lull amidst the pre-season and the small factor of a two league possibility for the upcoming season; I found time to head to Nyayo Stadium and have a glance at, truly, the strongest team in Kenya. Sofapaka were taking on fellow league runners-up, from Zambia, Power Dynamos; who earlier conquered Gor Mahia 3-0.
It would be naive to make a lot of reading off a pre-season friendly so I’ll just brush through the most important aspects of this fixture.
Sofapaka played with 4-4-2 variations; at times playing the basic system, reverting to 4-3-1-2 or pushing its wingers upfield for a 4-2-4 system. They ditched their midfield dominance style and opted to play directly forward; clearly a sign of respect, and shrewdness I must add, to their opponenets.
The visistors featured in a 4-3-3 and were the more elaborate team. Not overly impressive but showed they had some capability to play the ball under pressure.
The game started with lots of intensity as both sides worked hard to prevent the opposition from building up play at the back. Sofapaka pressed in a 4-2-4 set up and forced their opponents to concede freekicks and corner kicks. Conversely, the visitors engaged in midfield press as the Sofapaka defenders were either under instruction or not confident enough to move with the ball upfield. Soon Sofapaka were devoid of the intensity and this allowed Dynamos to showcase moments of outright midfield out-passing. They overloaded wings well and coupled this with switching play nigh-excellently; using their pendulating fullbacks or their ‘late’ arrival forward, they were almost always able to rapidly switch the ball to Sofapaka’s blind side. Nonetheless they were unable to create effective dangers off these numerous situations.
Sofapaka were more direct; they kept two deep-lying midfielders firmly in their zones and often looked to move the ball wide or forward with minimal elaboration. Though the act of pushing fullbacks forward saw them caught in behind a couple of times, it served to creste scoring opportunities on the other end. Their style turned out superior as they scored moments from the break; a straight pass forward followed up by swift one-twos earned them a delightful goal. They were lucky though as the visitors fluffed a penalty right at half-time.
Expectedly, Timbe played out a cautious second half- instructing his fullbacks to reign in on their adventrous runs forward. This caused them to be overwhelmed by Dynamos’ pressure and they tried a few things to gain relief; most notably moving the two strikers wide to stretch Dynamos’ defense thus create spaces in the channels (spaces between vertical lines) to be covered. The rest of the game was unfortunately, frustratingly and expectedly, disjointed by the numerous pre-season substitution.