Most fans who watched Harambee Stars against Ethiopia on Sunday 14 October admitted they had never seen such a spirited display from the Sebastien Migne coached side and with the 3-0 scoreline, the claims can’t be far from the truth.
The win not only boosted the chances of Stars making it to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals for the first time since 2004, but also gave the country a glimpse of what the team can do when backed with home fans, with the Moi International Sports Center (MISC) Kasarani having been filled to the rafters hours before the game.
But apart from the superb performance from people around the team, how did the men of the day fair in the field of play.
Patrick Matasi (GK)-7
Apart from the first half scare brought about by Ethiopia captain Getaneh Kebede, Matasi had a field day for the better part of the afternoon. His composure is something that is improving in each passing game and the understanding between him and his defence is something that coach Migne must be impressed with. He should coolly slot in as the first-choice keeper if Stars make it to Cameroon.
Whenever there is a yellow card, there is Abud Omar, that’s according to one fan who graced the game. The statement came when the left back was booked after what seemed to be an argument between him and Getaneh but credit to him because he was more composed in the game afterwards including in an incident when several Ethiopia players seemed to call for him to be shown a second yellow card. He did his duty well on the left wing as he has always done.
Prior to the qualification process no one ever thought that Philemon would be the first choice right back for Migne. After the spirited show against Ghana last month, the Gor Mahia defender’s star has continued to rise and is making a niche in a position that is primarily not his. He is cool headed, and in this game had good link up play with Eric Johanna. His perfect tackles have earned him a place in most of the fans' hearts.
Head coach Sebastien Migne must have had a headache dropping Joash Onyango after his display against Ghana earlier. The return of Mandela in the first leg of the Ethiopia tie might have given him the glimpse of what he had at his disposal. A good reader of the game and as someone who has been in the national team set up longer than Joash, Migne saw it wise to trust him with a duty which he did diligently.
For some reason, Musa Mohammed has been a key member for Migne since the Frenchman took over. The Nkana FC man was even called up when he was clubless and you shouldn’t wonder why, going by his displays in Stars last three qualification games. Many wonder why coach Stanley Okumbi used to field him at right back. A respected member in the group, he was handed the armband after captain Victor Wanyama was withdrawn late on.
Whoever thought Dennis Odhiambo would be a key figure in our qualification process should be handed an O.B.E. Not only has he started games but has let people around him have an easy time in doing their duty. Midfield kingpin, they have branded him. He had another flawless afternoon and gave room for the likes of Wanyama and Francis Kahata to enjoy their game. And not that alone, he made it easier for his defenders too.
Victor Wanyama (C)-7.5
After the display against Ethiopia in Bahir Dar on Wednesday 10 October, many felt the captain should have been benched when for the return leg at home. How wrong they were! Unfortunate to have been withdrawn in the latter stages of the game, Wanyama gave a performance that had his coach sing his praises. It was a display that many compared to his spirited outings in a Spurs shirt.
Man of the Match. Johanna had a goal, an assist and also won the penalty that saw Wanyama score the third goal. He had an afternoon that he won’t forget very easily. Despite starting the game shakily and having been substituted on Sunday against the same opponents, Johanna picked up as the game progressed. His runs on the right wing were a handful for the Ethiopia defence. His goal, the second for Stars was not any ordinary goal and it came with a great impact, in terms of consolidating Stars' lead, instilling confidence in the home team and charging up the crowds.
Kahata in the number 10 role can be devastating. He has done wonders in the same position with his club, Gor Mahia and his start came as no surprise. He might have been forced to track back so many times to aid Odhiambo and Wanyama but when he had the ball on his feet, there was no doubt about his ability to locate a team mate out of nowhere.
After the Malawi friendly game, coach Migne indicated that he would field Ouma in one tie against the Ethiopians and it came at Kasarani. The surprise was he was pushed forward and not in his left back position that is his natural position. The Kakamega High School alumnus was at his devastating best. His energy down the left flank was something Stars lacked in Bahir Dar. He tracked back on more than one occasion to aid Abud Omar. His industriousness was witness when he played a big part in Stars second goal.
What else do you need from a striker apart from goals? The Kashiwa Reysol forward is cementing a role in the team as a dependable player in big games and many have compared him with Kenya greatest striker despite his young age. He opened the scoring with a sumptuous swerve and was involved too in joining play. His height was a menace to the Ethiopians when it came to drop balls.
Allan Wanga (N/A)