25 March 2019

Kenya: Harambee Stars Pick Positives Despite Disappointing Loss

Home boys Philemon Otieno, Joash Onyango and Dennis Odhiambo deserve a pat on the back while Patrick Matasi's performance as the national team's first choice goalkeeper needs to be probed.

The quartet's performance provided a huge talking point on Saturday night after Harambee Stars lost 1-0 to Ghana's Black Stars in their final Group F qualifying match for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Apart from Gor Mahia winger Francis Kahata, Otieno, Onyango and Odhiambo were the only local-based players who started in the Harambee Stars squad, and they did not disappoint.

The three players, who started in defence at the expense of the foreign-based duo of Brian Mandela and David "Calabar" Owino, who are the more regular starters in that position, stood their ground and provided good cover for Matasi for the entire game.

Otieno and Onyango turn out for Gor Mahia, while Odhiambo features for Sofapaka, and their impressive performance gives credence to the SportPesa Premier League as a good incubator for national team players.

The goalkeeping department was however far from impressive.

Matasi, who has already been publicised by Stars coach Sebastien Migne as Kenya's first choice goalkeeper for the upcoming Afcon tournament, let in a simple goal in the 83rd minute that cost the team top spot finish in the group.

The match was headed for a barren draw when Turkey-based striker Caleb Ekuban sent a shot homeward. Matasi could have easily dealt with the ground shot but let the ball slide past his dive and into the net.

Interestingly, Matasi conceded a goal in the exact same way a week ago when his team (St Georges of Ethiopia) lost 1-0 away to Ethiopian league side Bahardar.

His deteriorating performance, at such a crucial time, is therefore deeply worrying, although he has been in sensational form over the last two years and especially in the course of Kenya's Afcon qualification campaign where Stars conceded only three goals in five games.

"I missed some of my experienced players, but it was a good time to observe the local based players. The whole coaching team is impressed by their performance, especially against such a big team like Ghana. We have learnt a lot," said Migne said after the match.

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