3 June 2012

Kenya/Malawi: Oluoch Is the Man

In the build up to the World Cup qualifier pitting Harambee Stars against Malawi over the weekend, the social and mainstream media was awash with questions over whether Norway-based keeper Arnold Origi would be available for the clash.

The journalists were persistent in trying to find out if Origi had been called up to the Kenyan squad. And they were justified considering he is Kenya's best and first choice goalkeeper. But going by the display exhibited by Tusker goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch against The Flames on Saturday, it is doubtful anyone will ever worry over the absence of Origi.

Oluoch made a string of daring saves that kept alive Stars' hopes of reaching an unlikely 2014 World Cup in Brazil. With 30 minutes on the clock and Stars creating little chances worth noting, Oluoch reacted swiftly to save at the feet of Russel Mwafulirwa after the deadly Malawi forward had danced around him and looked certain to open the scoring.

Seconds later, the reigning Kenyan Premier League goalkeeper of the year flew high to thwart a header from John Banda that was destined for the net. Oluoch's display mirrored the one-man show displayed by Origi in his last match for Kenya against Uganda in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier last year. With Stars having run themselves to the ground late in the match, Malawi rallied themselves to a last ditch effort to get the winning goal, camping in the Stars half in the last fifteen minutes.

They would have scored were it not for Oluoch, who yet again showed amazing agility by stopping a Mwafulirwa header on the line to the chagrin of Malawi coach Kinnah Phiri. "Kenya did not pose the problems I thought they would but their goalkeeper really spared them from defeat. But when they come to Malawi, they will not be so lucky because I have more experienced players who will be waiting for them," said Phiri.

For his endeavours, Oluoch was named Man of the Match and received a token from Harambee Stars title sponsors East African Breweries Limited and showed that a new hero between the posts has been discovered. Oluoch was not on alone in showing gallant display. Thika United winger Clifford Miheso was used as a makeshift left back and he showed no signs that he is an attacking midfielder, looking every bit a perfect replacement for his injured team-mate Dennis Odhiambo.

Meanwhile, coach Francis Kimanzi insists all is not lot and the team should not be ruled out of the race for a 2014 World Cup slot. "It's the beginning of qualifiers and we have an opportunity to stay in the game next week. I am pleased with the point," said Kimanzi.

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