NAIROBI, March 24 – Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa took to his Twitter account to defend Harambee Stars’ disappointing result in Wednesday’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier 1-0 away defeat to minnows Guinea Bissau.
Mwendwa, who accompanied the team to Bissau, immediately posted on Twitter after Kenyan football enthusiasts criticized Stars’ display especially the fielding that left the team languishing at the bottom of Group E on a single point after three matches.
“At no time did I promise we shall win a lot in these first years. We shall build from ground up and that I said will take more time!”
“There is and will be a lot of talk. We have good youngsters and we will make them stronger. We cannot shy away from these situations,” Mwendwa wrote.
It was a nightmare start for first coach Stanley Okumbi, whose coaching credentials were put to scrutiny after succeeding Scotsman Bobby Williamson in Mwendwa’s regime.
Okumbi’s starting line-up released seven hours before the match raised eyebrows after midfielder Patillah Omotto was preferred for experienced Anthony Akumu, who was nursing a minor eye injury.
The absence of Posta Rangers forward Timothy Otieno, who is currently leading the SportPesa Premier League top scorer chart with four goals, was also the talk of town with the former Gor Mahia striker not included in the first 18.
In his place, youngster Ovella Ochieng from Kariobangi Sharks was slotted in to earn his maiden cap after he was introduced in the 76th minute for AFC Leopards winger Clifton Miheso.
Playing against a team placed 44 places below Stars, many expected the new technical bench to start on a high after having ample time to prepare thanks to the two-week break that the Kenyan Premier League took, something that was not witnessed in the past regime.
The team arrived in Bissau on time except the foreign based players who linked up with the squad on the eve of the match while skipper Victor Wanyama joined the team hours to kick off.
On the pitch, the much talked new philosophy saw Mathare United’s Eric Johanna start on the wing, Musa Mohammed at right-back and James Situma on the left side of defense.
Forward Michael Olunga was deployed on the flanks when Zesco United striker Jesse Were was introduced in the second half for Johanna, but these experiments did not work.
Stars chased the ball in the opening half to see a defensive howler by Musa Mohammed allow Bissau’s Idrissa Camara to puncture a body blow to Stars’ ambitions of featuring at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Okumbi only had one defender on the bench (Thika United’s Dennis Odhiambo) after Ulinzi Stars left-back Omar Mbongi was overlooked to watch the match from the stands.
Zesco defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino produced a man of the match performance alongside Wanyama and Johanna Omolo to see the match end 1-0 ahead of the return leg on Sunday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
Stars’ slimmest hopes of qualification now remain bleak, but for pride they need to beat the West Africans at home as Okumbi seeks to imprint a win in front of the home fans to restore faith in his abilities, something that has come under huge doubt after the Bissau horror show.