Tusker XI; Shikalo- Situma, Wahome, Omar, Ochieng- Monday, Kimani, Osumba, Mieno, Oboya- Were
AFC Leopards XI; Bataro- Wafula, Abdalla, Saleh, Imbalambala- Shikokoti, Ndaka, Seda, Ngama- Diallo, Keli
AFC Barely Show Up
Leopards had been plagued with what can be termed as chaos in the build up to this game. Infact, Logarusic spoke of having to “improvise” in laying out his selection for this fixture. He set up a flat 4-4-2 that was to defend in a low block and counter against Tusker’s high line defending.
Conversely, Kimanzi maintained the same of his
approach; only packing the midfield and with all of them ball players. This was a clear intent of denying AFC a sniff on midfield control.
Tusker build up was easy; Monday moved deep to start the play and no pressure was exerted on him. Immediately the
ball moved into midfield, Ingwe lined up deep in their two banks of four. This created a scenario of plenty of ball playing by Tusker yet little penetration. The brewers even tried to get Osborne Monday always near the ball for him to offer decisive vision but this only worked to the detriment of
their defensive set up.
Kimanzi always sets up to attack leaving only basic numeric superiority in defense; 1 vs 2 or 2 vs 3. In this case Monday
was to be the third player in dealing with AFC’s dual strike force of Keli and Diallo. Yet the instruction to get Monday moving to overload where the ball was left them susceptible in 2 vs 2 scenarios. Twice AFC went dangerously close to
scoring from these situations; it need not be mentioned that Keli is dangerous in 1 on 1 situations. Tusker’s recycling
passes that went on for long period also created defensive frailties; with the players occasionally losing focus and subsequently being easily dispossessed.
Nonetheless, this was a game which was more about what Tusker would do. They seemed out of form; their passing was slow and devoid of movement, a far cry from their regular performances. It witnessed their midfielders move deep to get a touch on the ball and try to work forward from there.
Even Kimani and Oboya moving narrow did not lead to any fruition as their overlapping fullbacks displayed similar anemic standards. Their key marks-man, Were, on the other hand had been marshaled well by Shikokoti’s man marking. It was getting redundant until a sudden spasm of; expected,
quick exchanges by Tusker earned them a freekick. One that was brilliantly dispatched by Kevin Kimani.
Ingwe found themselves on the back foot yet only made feeble attempts to come out and play. It was amusing to watch Tusker pass the ball leisurely in their half in an attempt to run down the clock as AFC were unwilling to sacrifice their positioning. Any attempts they made to create pressing
scenarios saw Tusker bypass them with combinational plays- which they possess on literally all parts of the pitch. Tusker looked to guard their lead in the opponent’s half and this they did well going into the break.
Predictably, AFC came into the 2nd half with more ambition. Their fullbacks probed forward and helped create dangers as
Tusker’s wingers are not adept on defensive contribution. Logarusic also made changes in the final third to improve dynamism upfront; Dungwa and Noah Wafula came on and did add some bite on Ingwe’s attack.
Perhaps a result of the effects of their banal administrative woes, AFC were poor in pressing. Yes, they pressed Tusker’s
build up in the second half but it was always too easily bypassed. The two forward were virtually their entire pressing structure. One striker pressed the ball carrier while another marked his closest passing option; there was a third vital support missing. This was seen in Tusker’s pressing (and the best way to do the basic of pressing). Tusker had one (or two) player attack the ball carrier, another mark his closest passing option and yet another blocking the passing lane of his other passing option. So in a sense little changed from the first half- AFC had to be more industrious, with the players allowed to leave their zones having to move back into position.
Tusker could not pass the ball behind Leopards’ blue wall and resorted to shots outside the box; a show of Kenya’s
deficiencies in shooting techniques and practice. Apart from another brilliant freekick from Kevin Kimani, Kenya Premier League’s most technical midfield could not trouble
the goalkeeper outside the box. The aforementioned Kimani was given more freedom upfront to help in incisive combinational plays but all too often the moves broke down before the keeper was tested.
Had AFC Leopard come into this game in the best of shapes it would have been more enthralling- as witnessed before. This win continues Tusker’s head to head dominance over their opponents and is, hopefully, a turning point in their underwhelming start for the season. As for AFC, who are
already plagued by inconsistencies, things will look scarily familiar if their woes are not dealt with soon enough.