11 Time Champs and Awkward Penalties

Real are the new Champions League holders. It wasn’t a spectacular match largely due to the fact that Madrid decided to sit back after Ramos’ goal. (Ronaldo looked like he had had a threesome before the game. Their forward three didn’t play well both individually and collectively.) Up until then, it promised to be an exciting match with Madrid playing with a lot of energy as experienced with their well-coordinated pressing. They then seemed to want to win it with that solitary goal. Athletico then pushed and pushed and after Griezmann missed a penalty they equalized through a wonderful move initiated by Gabi and slotted in beautifully by Carrasco. And celebrate he did in some style. I thought to myself that we had a game in our hands but both teams put their feet off the gas.

Zizou then made an awkward substitution bringing on Isco for Kroos. I thought it was a big blunder; leaving only Modric as the only man with a little bit of experience, for that stage, in the midfield. Benzema was then taken off for Vasquez. Looking at the number of chances they created, Madrid looked more likely to win it.

Awkward Penalties

In the end the tie was to be decided by penalties. They were awkward as Madrid penalty shots were aimed to the right while Athletico’s to the left. All went in but Juanfran’s. It was sad for Athletico who have now lost three finals. I thought Oblak could have at least tried to dive.

Zizou becomes the 7th manger to win it as player and coach, Ronaldo wins his third champions league and Madrid are now 11 time winners. What a great achievement.

KOGALO OUTSHINE MATHARE

Kogalo had never failed to score in this fixture since 2012. Mathare on the other hand last beat the green army in 2009. Both seem to love having the ball. Some even called it Dutch mastery versus Brazilian flair, sighting the two coaches “backgrounds”. Last season, they almost ended our unbeaten run.

The first half was plain. We had two attempts on goal while they had only one. Mathare’s tactic was basically to sit back, soak in the pressure and hit us on the counter. Such an antithesis to Kimanzi’s and even Mathare’s philosophy. Remember when he, a few weeks ago, bashed Western Stima for “Not coming to play football”? It worked.

Our best chance in the half was wasted by the later would be goal scorer, Walusimbi, when he missed a chance due to a poor first touch after a beautifully lofted pass from Nzigiyimana. (That move, resulting from Mathare’s corner, reminded me of taking corners in FIFA. It’s almost like creating a chance for your opponent. It’s even worse if you’re playing against Madrid.) We seemed to be playing through the flanks, with Walusimbi, Karim and Wafula fashioning 4 in the first 45. With Wise at center back, it was always going to be a problem for our target man, Jausenge. Wafula had moments when he could have created something special but was let down by his first touch. I think he is a wonderful dribbler by Kenyan (or Ugandan) standards but really has to work on getting the end product.

Mathare couldn’t pass the ball, something they have been doing well in every game bar this. Nzigiyimana effectively kept Eric Johana, their danger man, out of the game. Their only threat came with Abich’s free kick. They kept us at arms-length and were happy to do so if it could help them get something from the game.

Bonnie held our hearts in his hands by dribbling past our opponents. When it works, everyone’s happy with his composure under pressure. Should it fail, and it will one day, it eventually does, it stops being funny to the fans, his teammates and in particular the coach.

In the second half, Gor came out with more intensity. Mathare sat even deeper with Johana looking to play through balls which were easily dealt with by Shakava. It seemed to be heading for a draw. And Mathare would have been happy with that. We looked more threatening than Mathare who continued to sit back. Walusimbi took a good free kick, which didn’t really trouble Odhiambo in goal.

Ze Maria brought on Kahata for Wafula who switched wings with Walusimbi. It worked a few minutes later with Walusimbi curling the ball into the far post past an overstretched Peter Odhiambo. It was a great goal that should probably have been defended better as Kimanzi later stated. It meant that Mathare had to come out and try and get an equalizer. Meaning they ran the risk of conceding another. But with twenty minutes to play, they had to put in a shift. It ended up costing them after Kahata found Eric Ouma aka Marcelo with the finest of passes who then brought in a good cross for Tuyisenge to head in a second. He really was never going to miss from six yards. The game was basically over at that point.

Nothing much happened thereafter with only one threat on goal by Mathare, Johana’s free kick direct to the keeper.

A hard fought victory. Sends us up the log to position 2. Who would have thought of such resurgence after poor performance in the first few games? Marcelo really developing well both defensively and offensively, showing that he should earn a call up to the national team. Walusimbi with a goal that will most definitely be contender for play of the week on playback this evening, if not winning it.

Sevilla vs Liverpool

 

Liverpool crumble when it matters most

The guys at multichoice (read dstv) were so kind as to bring us the game. By us, I refer to the guys subscribed to dstv access, which is the most basic form of tv you can get from them as the word suggests, dstv ACCESS. To them I say I big thank you. Please bring us the Champions League final, DFB Pokal, FA Cup final this evening, heck and even the Euro final with a few games thrown in.

The first half of the game was quite interesting for Liverpool fans as they did almost everything right. Nathaniel Clyne bossing the right wing. Milner and Emre doing the same in midfield. Sevilla on the other hand were practically out of the game with probably on one chance (Gameiro’s overhead kick). Krychowiak, Banega and Nzonzi trying too hard to make life hard for themselves by moving the ball to high pressure zones instead of playing a simple pass. They hence resorted to playing long balls to Nzonzi. So unlike them and Spanish teams, I think. Part of this was due to the effective pressing by Liverpool. One couldn’t really blame Gameiro when he seldom received any service from the three in midfield.

D.Sturridge scored a fine goal with his out boot and we all thought Liverpool were winning this. They had a few chances, which they did not take and would as happens often, came to haunt them. There were also plenty of penalty appeals by the Mugsmashers and it’s sad that none went their way. All in all, they outwitted and outplayed Sevilla.

Before we could even settle down to watch the second half, Gameiro slotted one for the recent two time holders after some fine work by Mariano or Moreno’s blunder depending on you’re the state of the glass. Game on. What followed was the opposite of what we saw in the first half. Nzonzi dropped deeper. His partnership with Krychowiak coupled with Banega’s Ozilesque passing was quite something. They went back to the basics; moved the ball with more conviction and determination as was seen in the second goal.

On the flip side, Liverpool seemed clueless. Coutinho looked off the pace. Their opponents played their hearts off. At 2-1 one would have thought Istanbul. But it was far from happening since they hardly played the ball. Almost everything seemed to go wrong with them. Not long and they conceded a third which to be honest, I thought was an offside until watching the replay. I think this and the fact that they were playing poorly deflated their belief in plotting another historic comeback as we had seen against Dortmund.

No substitution would help them. Not even the entry of the Welsh Xavi, remember how he scored an equalizer when we were playing against them at Anfield? Benteke and Origi didn’t make the impact they were brought on to. D.Sturridge played behind them but that too didn’t work.

In the end, they cried the defeat off, I think, not really because of the defeat on the night but of the repercussions it came with; failure to play in the Champions League next season.

Steven Nzonzi now has a Europa League medal. How beautiful can life get.

 

 

 

 

Sofapaka’s Sinking

In 2009, just as I was starting to watch Kenyan football, Sofa were crowned champions the same season they were promoted from the lower tier league. It was more than a fairytale. It was like a fantasy fulfilled. 7 years on and they may be facing relegation.

***

To put Sofa’s situation in perspective take Leicester, 2016 champions of England, as an example. Fast-forward to 2023 they face the drop. It would be chaotic. “Doesn’t really matter what happens next season ” say some Leicester fans. They couldn’t be more further from the truth. Human beings have a penchant of desiring more; more money, better food, a better house etc. God forbid but if that happens, fans will call for the head of cjui the chairman because he agreed the sale of their chief scout or something. Some would hold placards written, without any remorse, “Thanks for the memories but it’s time for change.” And the English media, some well-respected pundits and even former players will fuel all this unrest.

Look at the civil war at Arsenal to get a feel of how demanding and inconsiderate we can be. In ’04 if you asked some Arsenal fans about what would happen the season after an unbeaten run, they would have, in the heat of the moment, and rightly so, have said, “Let’s enjoy today for tomorrow comes with it’s own B.S.” Some wouldn’t have minded going a season or two without winning the league but when it stretches to 12 plus years , it becomes worrying. Currently, some are calling for Wenger to resign, turning a blind eye to what he has done for the club. Same case with Liverpool. No one in their wildest of imaginations would believe that the last time they would lift the trophy would be in ’92.

***

Sofa’s game v Tusker over the weekend was just as dismal a performance as has been throughout the season. A blunt strike-force was evident in that game as has been since match day 1 (scored 9 conceded 18). Many teams would love to have even half the chances they had in front of goal against a Tusker side who sit at the top of the table while also enjoying a great run of form. They had many but lack of technical ability and maybe inexperience cost them (though I don’t really see how inexperience hinders you from scoring a simple tap-in, even stage-fright shouldn’t be a problem in such a situation.)

 

After match day 1, I watched as an overly confident David Ouma explained to Chiko and his panel on Playback how they’ll pick themselves up and work on their mistakes after a 5-2 thrashing by Mathare. With 2 wins, 1 draw and 10 losses, they seem to have done everything but that. It led to Mutuyimana being dropped to the benched and Tiema getting into goal for a few games. Few games later and Tiema is now a striker.

Keeper turned striker

So bad is Sofa’s situation that their keeper is now a striker. Tiema had one opportunity on goal missed it. David Ouma was so furious he benched him immediately despite the fact that he was barely had spent ten minutes on the pitch. The panel of experts called it an emotional substitution. That he’s a keeper turned striker didn’t cut him any slack. Cryuff said he didn’t bench a player for making mistakes, ‘coz it crushes them. It must have crushed Tiema. But that just shows you how bad things are at Sofapaka.

Too many problems for Batoto

One would argue that it’s the lack of money, the signing of 25 players most who are inexperienced among other things as the main reasons for their dip in form. They are partly right but only those in close contact with the running of the club know the deep lying issues. I think David Ouma is a competent coach with a team that he just has to make do with. He’s shown that he can do the job as was seen with the Harambee Starlets. So away with those who say that he isn’t up to the task.

 

 

Guniea Bissau vs Kenya, Long Balls and the Starting Line-up

Kenya started the qualifiers on a high note: drawing (1-1)away to Congo and we would have won were it not for Jackson Saleh handling the ball inside the 18-yard box. But we were beaten at home by Zambia and as a result we are 3rd in our group with 1 point and a -1 goal difference.

That defeat was blamed on lack of preparation, indiscipline (players partying on the eve of the game) and mostly delaying in payment of the players’ allowances. But with Nick Mwendwa at the helm that should never be an issue again as he’s repeatedly promised.

Stanley Okumbi has since been appointed and while I get the criticism he faces, I opt to give him the benefit of doubt. He has massive pressure to prove his critics wrong and a win will go a long way in silencing them.

Our opponents,Guinea, are last in the group and ranked 147th in the world. Not that we should underrate them but we have to take all three points if we are to get direct qualification and hope against all hope that Zambia and Congo draw in the two legs.

Long Balls, Kenya’s attacking tactic.

Everyone seems to think that we, Kenya, only play long balls. And they are right to some extent. Against Zambia, in the 1st half, 10 of 27 long passes were successful while 61 of 70 short ones were successful. In the 2nd half, 9 of 33 long passes were successful while 70 of 77 short were successful. (Don’t be fooled by the successful short passes we played since most were not played in the final third.) Not only are we not technical in our long passes, but more worrying is that it seems to be our only tactic when we attack as was seen in the 2nd half.

Yes, it makes sense, since we use Olunga as our target man but rather than using him to hold the ball and bring us in the game we play direct balls to him with the hope the he heads the ball into the net. Some may argue that his goal against Zambia came from a long ball but it was as a result of both poor defensive play and goalkeeping. Zambia corrected this and only one headed ball hit the target thereafter.

So it will be good to see us playing defense spliting passes since both Johanna Omollo and Eric Johanna will be starting. We should see more creativity from them and as earlier stated, we should use Olunga to get us into the game.

Starting Line-up Arnold Origi, Musa Mohammed, James Situma, Brian Mandela, David Owino, Patilah Omotto, Victor Wanyama, Eric Johanna, Clifford Miheso , Michael Olunga, Johanna Omollo.

It will be interesting to see how Patilah Omotto perfoms considering that everyone thinks that he was selected because of the coach’s and the President’s affiliation to his club, Kariobangi Sharks. A bad game from him and “football will have gone to the days of kujuana” will be the talk of town.

 

FEBRUARY FOOTBALL REVIEW

A summary if what happened in the football world in the month of February

Most important news first is that FIFA has a  new president in the man Gianni Infantino who among, other things, has promised to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup and more importantly the number of African Countries form 5 to 7. Back home, our football delegates showed the rest of Kenya how we should vote by electing Nick Mwendwa who has immediately embarked on the task of getting us to the 2022 World Cup. And a youthful side is what he believes should do the job for us.

In the EPL, my team, Arsenal, continue to disappoint. The victories over Burnley, Bournemouth and even the spectacular one against Leicester weren’t enough to keep us at the top of the table as we drew against Soton and were painfully beaten by Chelsea and United. The later fielding players from their youth academy. It sort of watered down the victory against League Leaders Leicester who seem will wake up from their fairy tale at the while at the top come May.

Chelsea are still yet to lose a match under Hiddink, Mancity lost all matches while West Ham continue to pursue a top-four finish alongside United and Liverpool who as at now are separated from man city with just 6 points. Villa seem to have their fate sealed though, as we have seen this season, anything can happen since they only are 7 points below relegation. Most shocking is the fact that the Eagles (Crystal Palace) have only won one match in 2016.

The greatest highlight was when Messi did a Cruyff by laying off a penalty to Suarez in their 6-1 win over Celta. Considering that he did it when he had a chance to score his 300th goal makes it even more beautiful. People said it was disrespectful but I think we are so much inclined on the professional side of football that we forget that it doesn’t harm if in achieving that you throw in a bit of  entertainment.

Off the pitch, Serge Aurier decided to bite the hand that feeds him after stating all manner of expletives about his coach, the man who believed in him and brought him to the club, and his teammates. And that even some african greats are defending him continues to shock me. It was wrong and he knows it and defending him doesn’t do anything to help the young man as some think. You can’t say such things about any human being let alone your coach and teammates. How does he even face them during the training sessions even after his serves his suspension?

Cristiano also decided to be all to candid about why Real aren’t at the top of the La Liga table. And yes, we all let it slide ‘cause it’s Cristiano Ronaldo but to me that is very disrespectful to your teammates who look up to you as a leader.

That’s all for now. Promise you I will do it sooner than I have done this time.

Francis Kahata vs Posta Rangers

Francis Kahata is one of the best creative midfielders, or as waswahili say, viuongo wazalishaji,  we have in Kenya. I thus have made it my duty to collect his stats, just so that I can understand his game more. So here goes his stats vs Bandari.

Long Pass 5/9

Short Pass 33/37

Dribbles 7/8

Balls Lost 9

Balls Won 5

He only took one shot which was blocked.

Lost all 3 aerial duels but this can be understood since he isn’t that blessed with height but had 3 successful headers.

I would have loved to see him get into the thick of things in the final third. Several factors like, gelling with new teammates, among others which ,I accept, are beyond my conception, led to a quiet game.  the numbers don’t lie, he created only one chance but it would have counted were it not for Jacob Keli’s (aka Kasee`) poor first touch, which consequently to him missing the target.