On Sunday, Jericho All Stars took to the field against Kayole Asubuhi in the overly dilapidated City Stadium grounds in what was the highlight of the successfully publicized Super 8’s Super Sunday. Owing to the blackout, KPLC made it easy for us to choose between our loyalty to the national Harambee Stars, who were playing Zambia, and our home-based team, All Stars. There were simply no excuses to miss the match.
Led by the legend Spark mwenyewe, Jeri needed a win to stand a chance to secure the coveted title. The Mashemeji derby and KSSSA football finals, it was arguably the biggest game Kenya has seen in a while courtesy of operation Fagia Base. Yes the games in Extreme Sports attract large crowds enviable by Nick and all KPL teams but this was definitely the climax of it all.
As you already know by now, Jeri lost the game by a solitary goal scored in the first half. Both teams had chances but couldn’t take them notably Pompee who would have at least bagged two goals. Apart from good performances from Makbul and Messi, there weren’t anything exciting about the game. But could Jeri have done better? What were the reasons behind their dismal performance?
As soon as the teams took to the pitch, everyone who’s followed Jeri this season was shocked to see Tola in the starting line-up. Last I saw him play a league game was against Shauri in the first leg and if my memory serves me well he played as a six. I’ve never seen him play for Jeri again at least not in the league. He features mostly in friendlies. I don’t necessarily doubt his quality (for this level) but I think it was unfair to play him in such a hugely significant game especially with other options available. Apart from a few interceptions he had a really bad day. (It can only be compared to Calum Chambers’ performances against Liverpool last season at the Emirates only that he, Chambers, improved in the second half.) So much that Okong’o decided to sub him; Ninety replacing him and Oreso moving over to right back. The game and mostly the substitution has definitely taken Tola’s confidence to a new low.
Poor team selection
Save from obvious questions over Tola starting one would wonder why he decided to play O’Neal. Yes he scored in the previous games against Masa and Kiambiu Youth but his performances have been below par. I think Ndiwa would have been a better more convincing option. O’Neal is not by any means a natural winger. After his short stint at KCB, he returned to the team to find Pompee as the undisputed number one striker so he has since been reverted to a winger. While I have no problem with that, I just don’t think that he’s a good winger. For obvious reasons, I tend to favor wingers who aren’t afraid of taking on defenders. O’Neal, with all due respect doesn’t do this and this weakness was greatly exposed. It is important that coaches play to the strengths of a player and not impose a specific style of play that doesn’t suit a player.
In defence, seeing that Omosh was ineligible to play in this game owing to a suspension after picking up red card, why Okong’o didn’t choose the young Chale at right back with Eddy and Ninety playing and CB. In my view Chale has had a great deal of mentorship when playing alongside Ninety. BTW what happened to Koki?
Subs that couldn’t make a difference
Brayo who came in for O’Neal tried by all means to make a difference by trying to take on his defender but all the criticism will be leveled on Bruce aka Look-man. As he waited to get into the fray, he was greeted with great applause which got to him so much that he waved back to the fans acknowledging their acknowledgement. (What the hell? Kwani was it his testimonial? No one does that? The thing with such showmanship is that it can be really embarrassing if, as was in his case, if you don’t back it up with performance.) He then entered in classic Barezi fashion but couldn’t live up to the hype. He is definitely good in spreading the ball wide but one of his major letdowns is that he “thinks” too much when he’s in possession, which was evident in a pass that could have put Messi through on goal but was intercepted because he was a second late in delivering it. He had a chance to make a difference with a free kick but could only see it hit the wall.
I think these reasons counted. All in all those in close contact with the club definitely know better. I only speak as a mere spectator. I now that Tola will rise for the dust. I know that Jeri will learn a lot from this game but they have definitely made it worse for themselves. They would have won the league by now but a series of losses and draw denied them this chance. They now trail leaders Kayole Asubuhi by two points and T.U.K by a point. All they can hope for is that the two drop points.
It was sad to hear that Jeri lost their player, Mackie later on that Saturday. My condolences to his family and to the entire Jericho All Stars fraternity. There will be a match on Sunday 11th to raise funds to grant him a decent send-off. Kindly plan to attend.
Photos courtesy of Antony Ndung’u