PARIS, France, June 8 – Under cold, rainy and windy conditions at the Stade Robert Bobin Stadium in Paris on Friday night, Harambee Stars beat Madagascar by a solitary goal in their first 2019 African Cup of Nations warm up tie, 16 days before their opening game in Cairo against Algeria.
But, despite the win courtesy of Victor Wanyama’s second half penalty, Stars have a lot to work on especially if the first half performance was anything to go by.
Head coach Sebastien Migne has admitted that the team was lucky to go into the break level with the Malagasy especially as they had seen a penalty saved by Patrick Matasi and had an effort also go against the crossbar.
“We were lucky to return at halftime with a draw; it is exactly what I said to the team. But in football you have two periods; the second half was better. I think it was a problem of attitude, but it’s difficult because we have new players,”
“It was the first call up for Avire and also the first call up for Ayub with me and we didn’t play all of us together in the same time. It is a huge problem in football, you need to be a compact as a team. We rectified after in second half and it was better,” Migne stated.
-Attack needs more effort
The team had just one effort on target the entire opening 45 minutes, and it was a freekick from Eric Johannah from range.
Defensively, Kenya kept it neat at the back though there were nervous moments frequently when Madagascar attacked from the flanks. Philemon Otieno and Aboud Omar were both found off guard a few times by the speedy Malagasy wingers.
However, Musa Mohammed and Brian Mandela partnered well at the heart of defense to thwart any kind of danger.
The team built well from the back but when it came to the business end in the final third, the options were always lacking. You might blame it on a new combination as Francis Kahata, Ayub Timbe and John Avire have not played together before.
More often than not, Timbe picked the ball from deep, tried to dribble in but he had not much of options infront of him as the other two, especially Avire who was making his senior team debut did not read much into how he plays.
Head coach Sebastien Migne has admitted as much, that the team needs to get sharper infront of goal.
“We scored with a penalty, but we need to score during the game; I want it. We can improve also the set pieces, first half was not good. At the beginning of the match we also need to improve our concentration at the beginning of the game,” Migne stated.
-Olunga shows he should start at AFCON
The introduction of Michael Olunga in the second period brought Kenya to life in attack. His height, speed and precision with his left foot caused Madagascar some trouble.
He was to play a minimal role in the tie having only trained once, but judging from the opening 45 minutes, coach Migne knew he needed to bring in his Mr. reliable to bring in some punch, something that he did.
All over sudden, the Madagascar defense was shaky with Olunga troubling them with his hold up play and thrice intercepted back passes with one of the efforts going inches over with a good curl and a second low shot going just wide.
“It was a good start for me at least I am getting into rhythm. I am not worried about scoring because I know it will come,” Olunga commented after the match.
-Matasi makes firmer claim for number one spot
Patrick Matasi has shown that he has grown from his performance against Ghana in March in Kenya’s final African Cup of Nations qualification match with a more matured and improved performance in the game against Madagascar.
The St. George keeper played a massive role in Kenya’s qualification, his performance against Ethiopia away and Ghana at home being central in Kenya picking vital points.
Save for one situation where he almost gifted Madagascar of a goal after dropping down the ball at the feet of a striker inside the six yard box as he tried to launch a distribution, Matasi was solid in goal and his penalty save earned him pay for the day.
-Youngster Okumu shows he is one for the future
Joseph ‘Crouch’ Okumu came on at the start of the second half for Musa Mohammed who had been pulled out as precaution after a slight muscle strain.
But, the lanky defender blended in with Brian Mandela seamlessly, was calm, composed and made several important blocks especially in the final minutes of the game when Madagascar were launching attacks to try get an equalizer.
The Harambee Stars U-23 skipper received plaudits from fellow journalists who were watching the game in the tribune and skipper Victor Wanyama also praised his performance on the pitch.
“He is a young talent and today he showed he is grown and knows what it takes to perform at the top level like this and he performed really well, was calm and played really good balls and we are lucky to have a player like him,” Wanyama said of the USA based stopper.
Stars will now work for the next six days before shifting their attention to their second friendly game against DR Congo in Madrid, Spain on Saturday before embarking on the trip to Cairo, Egypt for the final tournament.