By Steve Ayoo (@Steifmaster88)
Kenya put themselves in a prime position to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon with a thumping 3-0 victory over Ethiopia at a packed Kasarani Stadium on Sunday, October 15.
With perhaps the biggest crowd in over a decade pushing them on, Stars players produced the performance to match the support as they made top spot in Group F their own.
Here is how we rated the 14 Kenyan men who played their parts in delivering the win.
Patrick Matasi (7.5): Didn’t have to make an uncomfortable stop the whole evening as everything Ethipia threw towards his goal stopped at the feet of his defence
Aboud Omar (8): Got the crowd going with a couple of tricks and flicks early on. Perhaps his best performance in a Stars’ jersey for some four matches or so. Loves a ‘kanzu’ and dished them every chance he got
Brian Mandela (8): Centerback competition is perhaps at its highest level right now. With Joash Onyango available after serving his suspension and David Ochieng also pushing for a start (won’t get started on the injured David Owino), Mandela was given the nod to partner vice captain Musa Mohammed and he was epic. Looked too composed and a threat at set pieces. Blemish-less performance.
Musa Mohammed (8): He’s become an ever-present in Stars’ starting XI. He flourishes at centerback and not as a full back as the era of Stanley Okumbi perhaps never realized. A calming presence. There’s competition alright but with such kind of performances, he remains the leader back there.
Philemon Otieno (8): Mr utility. Another player you would be at pains to put on the bench. Looked better prepared to deal with the Ethiopia left wingers than he was against Ghana. His distribution skills (gained from being naturally a midfielder) is perhaps his most underrated arsenal
Victor Wanyama (8.5): Captain. Leader. It was like he was never away. Everyone in the stadium knew just how close Kenya are to returning to Afcon, the captain notwithstanding. Was rock solid and powerful, almost to a bully. Drove forward in a manner that Tottenham fans aren’t accustomed to and took the responsibility of killing the game via a penalty like a leader. Limped off injured but the lion share of the job had already been done.
Dennis Odhiambo (8.5): What more can you say? Was man of the match against Ghana, away to Ethiopia and wasn’t far off here. Surely among the first names in that starting XI. Wherever the ball goes, you’ll always see a bald head pop up. That bald head, ladies and gentlemen, belongs to Dennis Odhiambo.
Francis Kahata (8): Was given the free role to attack and defend at will and got better at it as the game progressed especially after shaking off a nervous start. Looked to find Olunga early on but his passing wasn’t at it’s razor sharp level. Got better as the minutes ticked.
Eric Ouma (7.5): You can’t bench this lad, especially given his current form. But with Aboud growing solid at left back, Sebastian Migne made the informed decision of benching Ovellah Ochieng to give Marcelo the left wing role. On another day, he would be flying from the get-go but seemed nervous early on. Constantly improved and had a say on Johanna’s goal. He’ll get better.
Eric Johanna (*9.5*): What more could you have asked of him? Struggled against Ghana and was frustrating against Malawi but boy didn’t he remind us of that ‘Mapake’ who did wonders in the Kenyan topflight until the gates of Europe opened! Had a hand in the opener, scored the opener and won the penalty that Wanyama converted for Kenya’s third. A perfect day in the office. Star player. Star man.
Michael Olunga (9): Had he scored that goal and then exited the game immediately, I would be giving him an 8 already. Purely world-class from a player who is arguably among the top five best strikers in, wait for it… Africa. Scoring such a worldie needs vision, precision, power, audacity and execution. He’s got it all. You can’t score such a goal if you don’t have it all. Wow!
Ismael Gonzalez (6): Replaced Eric Johanna who picked an injury. Twice worked his way into promising positions but failed to gather the confidence to take a shot
Johanna Omollo (6.5): Came in for Wanyama and was quite brilliant in the nearly half hour he was on the pitch. Was incisive and aware as Kenya kept pushing forward while remaining solid at the back. What an option he is.
Allan Wanga N/A: Earned another cap late on, his biggest contribution being the man to usher in a standing ovation for Michael Olunga. We’ll have to wait and see if he’s a better back up than Jesse Were.
Unused subs: 1. Faruk Shikalo (GK), 23. Brian Bwire (GK), 20. Bernard Ochieng, 22. Joash Onyango, 4. David Ochieng, 6. Anthony Akumu, 19. Paul Were, 7. Ovella Ochieng, 9. Piston Mutamba