By Steve Ayoo (@Steifmaster88)
Kenya picked up an impressive if not shocking win against Ghana in their 2019 Africa Nations Cup qualifier in Nairobi as a first half own goal from Nicholas Opoku handed the hosts victory at the expense of the Black Stars.
It was head coach Sebastian Migne’s first major victory and puts Kenya right back in the mix for qualification, having stunningly lost their first match away to Sierra Leone.
Kenya played without captain and Tottenham midfielder Victor Wanyama. Here’s how we rated those who orchestrated the Black Stars’ downfall.
Patrick Matasi (8): barely had to make a world-class save in the opening half but was made busy after the interval. Dealt with all that was thrown at him, one crucial moment saw him intercept a one-on-one chance and come out tops. Commanded the backline extremely well and helped in game management when it mattered. His distribution was above average, too. Kenya 1
Philemon Otieno (6.5): necessity has seen him used as an auxiliary rightback at his club Gor Mahia and that’s exactly the position he played here. Was given a world of problems to deal with earlier on as Ghana targeted his wing. Got little help from Ovellah Ochieng but increasingly settled in until injury struck. Could have had higher ratings had he lasted. Better days ahead. Quick recovery
Joash Onyango (8.5**): he never gives anything less than 110%, does he. Made crucial interceptions and blocks, didn’t allow himself to be bullied and was timely in the tackle. He was selected ahead of club captain Harun Shakava and his performance here showed why. A red card at the hour mark left the team under pressure but what could he have done? Didn’t put a foot wrong – OK he did hence the red card. But that was taking one for the team. Brilliant and will be missed when serving the oncoming suspension. Merits two stars
Musa Mohammed (8): Was handed the armband in the absence of Victor Wanyama and he gave a captain’s performance. We haven’t see much of his football this season but there were no signs of rustiness. His most recent caps have seen him play as a fullback where he gave questionable performances but he looked more comfortable at the center.
Aboud Omar (6.5): Was given the nod at leftback ahead of Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma and he did well. Didn’t offer much of an attacking threat as his younger teammate could have but defending is the job and he put in a good shift in without catching much of an eye.
Dennis Odhiambo (8.5***): His previous international assignment ended in a catastrophic performance and defeat to Guinea Bissau. Didn’t look like he had been away for that long though. Was composed in midfield and spread the ball around well. Could have been quicker in his passing when Kenya recycled the ball from the back. Limped off injured late on. Get well.
Ismail Gonzalez (7.5): perhaps one of his best performances in a Kenyan shirt. Wasn’t afraid to get into the tackle early on and dictated the tempo for Kenya alongside Odhiambo. Sent one effort towards the target but didn’t generate enough power to trouble the keeper.
Johanna Eric (5.5): by far, not his best show in a national team shirt. Lost the ball in crucial areas, was slow in picking the pass at crucial moments and failed to provide his customary lung-bursting runs excerpt for one occasion. Got the assist for Nicholas Opoku’s own goal but otherwise a below average day in office. Rightly substituted.
Ovellah Ochieng (5): another one who didn’t do himself a world of favor. Didn’t get behind his marker with great abandon and overran the ball more often than not. One fine run down the right saw him sting the keeper’s palms but not much happened thereafter. Didn’t look happy tracking back when Kenya needed to defend.
Francis Kahata (8): played as the left winger but did a lot of defensive work to help Aboud. Barely got into Ghana’s final third but that can be attributed to lack of options up there. Was almost playing as a second left back after the break and excelling at it. Fine return after years in the cold.
Michael Olunga (8): this was going to be one of those days when service was going to be at premium. Wore his socks off as the lone man up front and applied the pressure on Opoku who scored the own goal. One fine turn and shot had the keeper worried. Service was limited but he made full use of the little that came through.
Jockins Atudo (5): the experienced Posta Rangers captain replaced the injured Otieno at right fullback. Was targeted the minute he stepped onto the pitch and he’ll be the first to confess he didn’t do quite well.
David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng (6): one fine block late on justified his presence having replaced Eric Johanna.
Antony Akumu (N/A): Was surprisingly omitted from the starting XI and only got his chance in stoppage time replacing the injured Odhiambo