22 March 2018

Kenya/Comoros: Trio Out to Lay a Claim on Kenya One Tag as Stars Battle Comoros

Marrakech — Having conceded twice and lost their opening match of the 2019 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers away to Sierra Leone last September, Harambee Stars surely know too well the importance of keeping things tight at the back in the remaining qualifying rounds.

And even though football remains a team sport, the chief responsibility of keeping out the goals currently lies with the three goalkeepers called up for duty ahead of the two friendlies here in Morocco, namely Patrick Matasi, Farouk Shikhalo and the ever-smiling John Oyemba.

With Gor Mahia's Boniface Oluoch, who was in goal in the shock 2-1 loss to Sierra Leone last September out of the picture for now, it's likely either of these trio, and especially Matasi, will be manning the posts when the Black Stars of Ghana come calling in September.

Matasi has fitted in well since replacing Oluoch, who had replaced Arnold Origi last year.

The 30-year-old conceded twice in five games at the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Kenya last December and followed that up with the penalty heroics in the final against Zanzibar.

"That's all behind us now and what's important is the next game against Comoros (on Saturday)," the Posta Rangers custodian told Nation Sport on Thursday.

"That game isn't necessarily about winning, but rather finding the balance and understanding my teammates, especially their strengths and short comings. They also need to know me."

Should Stars coach Stanley Okumbi opt to rest Matasi, formerly at Leopards, then Shikhalo, his former teammate at Rangers is in line to take over, at least judging from the training sessions here in Marrakech.

Now at Bandari, Shikhalo has been called up five times to the national team, but is yet to play a match. At club level, Shikhalo has let in only two goals in seven league games.

"He (Farouk) has the confidence to handle such a task," Stars goalkeeper trainer Haggai Azande, a former Kenya goalkeeper, said.

"Confidence is key, it helps you bring out the potential in you and try out scenarios. That's why he is here."

GOOD LEAGUE FORM

Then there is Oyemba, who is here because of his impressive turnout in the league last season, which earned the Kariobangi Sharks keeper a runners up slot, behind Matasi, in the Golden Glove award category during the Kenyan Premier League awards.

Oyemba has been playing as a right back during practice matches here, a clear sign that he is the third choice Keeper.

"It's a big opportunity just to be here but I'm ready to play if the opportunity comes up. I'm really excited because I didn't expect to be called up."

Either way, the real audition for Matasi, Shikhalo and Oyemba will commence in earnest in the friendlies against Comoros and Central Africa on Saturday and Tuesday respectively.

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