A much easier game for the Harambee Stars than the one against Lesotho saw Kenya come out as comfortable winners.
Adel Amrouche’s first win in charge of Kenya had minimal fuss, with very few tactical battles across the pitch.
Taking into consideration the fatigue factor, Amrouche made four changes to the squad that started against Lesotho. Jerim Onyango replaced Duncan Ochieng’ in goal, Aboud Omar came in for the injured Mohammed Musa, Rama Salim played ahead of Andrew Murunga while Paul Kiongera’s impact as a sub in the earlier game saw him earn his spot in attack at Kennedy Otieno’s expense.
It however meant that the line up now had six Gor Mahia players, four of whom were now playing their third consecutive game in as many days.
With Swaziland expected to pose less of a threat than Lesotho, Amrouche trusted two strikers upfront. Rama played as the second striker, supporting Kiongera on the attack. Defensively, he dropped deeper into midfield to crowd Swaziland’s defensive midfielder and hence stopped the Swazi’s from implementing the ‘tiki-taka’ football they had talked of prior to the game.
The early Edwin Lavatsa goal influenced much of how the rest of the game would be played. Coming on four minutes, it gave the Kenyans an early advantage. Knowing that they were far superior on the ball, they elected to now keep the ball with neat one or two touches rather than press home the advantage.
It also led to them not pressing the Swazi’s in their own half, and allowing them to have the ball. Swaziland were happy to play it amongst themselves at the back but lacked the ideas to play it through the crowded center of the pitch. As such, they ended up looking to bypass the midfield with balls over the top, but this ploy was unsuccessful as the ball more often than not found its way to Jerim in the Kenyan goal.
Kahata’s Positioning and Omar’s Overlapping
Due to the deployment of two strikers, Francis Kahata started from a wide left position, presumably for balance and so as to avoid unnecessary overcrowding in the center of the pitch.
His movement however in the opening minutes was interesting. Rather than stay out wide, he looked to drift inside, almost becoming an attacking midfielder playing to the left of midfield (which, ostensibly, he was). This brought about a lopsided structure on the left for Kenya.
This was offset by the marauding runs of Omar from left back. In a way, Kahata’s movement encouraged him as it left space down the left wing for him to run onto balls played wide from midfield. Such was his forward runs that on one occasion, he was caught offside. And it was he that crossed for Lavatsa’s goal. He would also prove to be vital later on in the game.
With time though, and with Kenya dropping off their opponents more and more, Kahata seemed to become frustrated with the role of defending that left hand side. He thus started coming infield in search of the ball. On one occasion, he found himself on the right wing with Lavatsa, with basically no options on the other wing to spread the ball to. This was exactly the sort of overcrowding Amrouche may have been trying to avoid
Second Half Swazi Changes Play Into Kenya’s Hand
At the start of the second half, Swaziland made two bizarre, if not brave tactical changes. Belgian coach Valere Billen took off both full backs, and replaced them with another set of full backs.
It is rare to see a team replace both full backs at the same time, but for five minutes of the second half, it almost paid off. The new set of full backs attacked and pushed Kenya further back. The right full back especially kept troubling Kenya’s left hand side, which had an attacking midfielder (Kahata) who was not comfortable tracking back, and a left back (Omar) who looked to attack at every opportunity.
Targeting Kenya’s left however eventually worked in reverse for Swaziland. After a brief period of dominance, the attacking right back left space which Kahata started to exploit. Seemingly instructed to stick to that left side, this new found space allowed Kahata to now express himself.
Thus, against the run of play, Kahata released Omar down the left hand side and the left back’s cross led to the creating of the chance that saw Lavatsa’s brilliant left foot volley finish.
Situma Balances Things Around
Before the second goal, Amrouche had pulled off Rama Salim and brought on utility player James Situma. Situma slotted in on the left of center midfield alongside Teddy Akumu and Peter Opiyo.
His role was simply to provide cover on that defensively weak left hand side that was being exposed by the Swaziland half-time change. At the same time, it was he that pushed furthest forward of the midfield trio whenever Kenya attacked.
The next change was to bring off Kiongera (who was on a yellow card and looked visibly exhausted) for Murunga. This change sought to replace power for pace, as now Kenya looked to attack the spaces in behind the Swazi defence with Murunga’s direct running.
However, this did not last as 15 minutes later, Amrouche replaced Murunga with Paul Were. Murunga had missed an easy chance but it is unclear why Amrouche substituted the substitute.
Apart from moving Lavatsa into the central striking role, the change had no further tactical implications on the game and Kenya saw out the win.
Apart from brief displays of talent from Darren Christie, and that five minute period after the interval, Kenya were never really troubled defensively by the Swazi’s.
By negotiating a simple game in this manner, Amrouche will hope his side has a good day’s rest before the more testing encounter against Botswana.