Gor Mahia started in a 4-3-3 system while their opponents, CNaPS, fielded a 4-5-1 system as they looked to bunker in midfield and carry an advantage home. Unfortunately for them, they were slow to settle and got punished immediately; Abondo came out the winner in a 1 vs 1 situation and set up Olunga who was brought down for a penalty. Early goals usually have a profound effect on the game’s proceedings and it was no different here. The visitors now had to come out while Gor Mahia would have the luxury of being the reactive side; football moralists claim reactive football is “less difficult” to implement.
From there Gor Mahia looked to win the ball in midfield and play it to Olunga who was brilliant in moving into the spaces between the channels (vertical lines in the pitch). He caused a lot of problems for CNaPS, not only with this movements but also his link up play and showings of ball holding prowess potential. The visitors went through all sorts of trouble to calm him down; zonal defending that was thwarted by his movement, man marking thwarted by his quick link up and willingness to move upfield before finally settling on a highline. Despite his capabilities, Olunga didin’t look sharp enough in avoiding offside traps.
CNaPS proved to be poor ball holders under pressure and, fittingly, Nuttal tasked his players (basically, wingers and strikers) with presssing high up the pitch. It created the risk of getting caught in the midfiled spaces as the defense didin’t move with the press to close this down. A risk they wouldn’t really be exposed to due to the poor quality of the opposition. This pressing prevented CNaPS building play from the back and allowed Gor Mahia to create some very dangerous moments that went unutilized. As the half wore off so did the energy to press and K’ogallo saw off the half with elaboration restricted to the midfield.
Nuttal’s charges changed to the 4-3-3 variant of 4-1-4-1 in the second half with Aucho sweeeping fairly well between the defensive and midfield lines. The team pressed aggressively in midfield to prevent CNaPS, now in a 4-3-3, from passing the ball; of which it has been mentioned they were poor at doing under pressure. They resorted to wing attacks and hoping to getting 1 vs 1 scenarios to create real danger in the Gor Mahia third. Nuttal read well and reigned in on his fullback’s adventurous play, especially Walusimbi, at the cost of diminishing the attacking threat. But in retrospect, this is how one plays in continental football. This also caused their transitional play to suffer as it heavily relies on shuttlers (midfiled and wings) to create vertical threat.
Gor Mahia improved in terms of their short passing but still found it difficult to get the ball to an isolated Olunga. They also lacked capabilities in long range passing which would have been useful in winning balls in the pressing overloads and switching play rapidly to the freer zone. With the dearth in attacking play, Blackberry was brought on in a system that changed to 4-4-2; Abondo moving to midfield to create the two banks of four (the hallmark of zonal marking). He didn’t improve the link up and was shifted to the left without much increase in his contribution.
There is not much debate that Gor Mahia were the superior team and they will be frustrated they couldn’t notch a second goal. Nevertheless, barring drastic collapse they are well placed to overcome CNaPS.