Thursday was a historic night for Kenyan football. Three of our very own players played a match in the CAF Champions League group stage. The Kenyan contingent at Zesco all got playing time against Wydad Casablanca. This phase will be expanded next year and hopefully 2016 Kenya Premier League champions will feature.
I missed Zesco’s victory over Al Ahly but so did Jesse Were. It works out. Back to this, the match against Wydad Casablanca showed why some of us advocate for Kenyan players to stick around. The opponent’s quality faced by Akumu, Owino and Were is better than sitting out games in some sterile European environment. Besides, qualifiers to tournaments Kenya no longer goes to will involve travel to these venues to face those fans. Enough romanticism, I think.
David ‘Calabar’ Owino
Kenya’s very own ball playing defender was doing something very different in Casablanca. He was asked to stick very tightly to the Wydad Casablanca striker; Fabrice Ondama. He man-marked him every time his zone was encroached to prevent the striker from turning. But Zesco still conceded an early goal.
Zesco were being destroyed from the flanks. Their wrong approach to this game (high line without high press) saw the side run towards their goal every time Wydad attacked. Owino looked good when he stood next to Ondama but had no chance when the ball and the players moved fast. It was this course of events that made him score an own goal as well.
Aside from regular deep continental runs by KPL sides, Akumu being utilized is well is one thing I agitate for in the Kenyan game. He showed how good he is in the CAF Champions League too. In the first half he was inhibited. Akumu was required to stick around the centre circle and make passes to teammates also gathered around the center circle. This made it very easy for Wydad to press and win the ball back.
When they came from the break, Zesco had to chase the game and this gave Akumu freedom to do his thing. He showed glimpses of his ability to switch play from flank to flank and that of picking out open players instead of the boring lateral and backward passes we know Harambee Stars loves. An adventurous Zesco managed to create a 1v1 situation but this is Africa so the striker failed to score.
Last year’s Kenya Premier League top scorer returned from injury as a late sub against Wydad Casablanca. He was not involved too much in play but we know he should never be. Lwandamina, his coach at Zesco, called him a finisher. This means Were can only thrive in a team that creates chances; something Zesco do and Francis Kimanzi’s style resulted in at Tusker FC. Unfortunately, this is still lacking in the national team.