Sofiane Feghouli and Rihad Mahrez of Algeria tackle Kenya’s Abud Omar during tehir Afcon Group C opener at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo.Algeria won. PHOTO/Citizen
Harambee Stars paid dearly for ‘school boy errors’ in a match of supreme importance as they begun their African Cup of Nations campaign in a bitter tasting fashion falling 2-0 to the pacy and deadly Algeria at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo.
Harangued and dominated in a frantic first half when the Desert Foxes showed unrelenting appetite for Kenya’s goal, the Stars buckled under pressure with Dennis Odhiambo giving away a penalty after tricking danger man Youcef Atal in the 12-yard box and Malian referee Mahamadou Keita had no hesitation awarding the penalty which Baghdad Bounedjah bombed in with composure, directing to the left hand-side of a helpless Patrick Matasi in Kenya’s goal.
Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez, the major star in the stadium, and who admitted in a pre-match conference on Saturday that he knew little about Stars, then twisted the knife on the back of bleeding Kenya by adding the second in the 42nd minute, driving in a shot from the box which Matasi got his hands on but was too strong spilling into the net to all but wrap up the tie, the night proving disastrous for Stars.
With the Algerians pacy, technically gifted and dangerous on the ball, Stars coach Sebastien Migne should have opted for a steely defence, rich in experience, and one is miffed at his decision to let the highly reliable David ‘Calabar’ Owino warm the bench, Philemon Otieno playing ahead of him in this game.
Migne has never trusted the Zambian based Owino but his versatility, experience and good reading of the game could have helped limit the destruction.
To say that the Foxes outfoxed Kenya would be an understatement as Mahrez saw his free kick from outside the box from his right flank after an Aboud Omar foul diverted for an unsuccessful corner while they bossed possession in either side of the half.
Upfront, lead striker Michael Olunga lacked the supply of balls from a midfield that was supposed to be full of creative minds in Francis Kahata, Eric Johanna and Ayub Timbe, forcing him most of the time to shift wide to the wings in search of the ball, and Migne, left with no choice, substituted Kahata at half time and in his place came Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma.
After the opener, the Algerians continued to press the Kenyan defence that was bereft of ideas and shaken to the core going by the clumsy manner in which they defended.
Matters were not helped by the voluminous support from the the west end corner of the stadium where the hundreds of Algerian fans were vocal in voicing their support as the pockets of their Kenyan counterparts stayed glued to their seats.
Migne later brought in Johanna Omollo in the second half for Eric Johnana and he helped steady the midfield but the game had already been lost.
With Senegal beating Tanzania 2-0 earlier on at the same venue in another Group C match, Kenya is under extreme pressure and must win their next game against neighbours Tanzania on Thursday and win against Senegal or at worst force a draw to stand a chance of getting out of the group.
Kenya’s Starting XI
Patrick Matasi, 20. Philemon Otieno, 3. Abud Omar, 2. Joseph Okumu, 5. Musa Mohamed, 21. Dennis Odhiambo, 12. Victor Wanyama(Capt), 11. Francis Kahata, 7. Ayub Timbe, 10. Eric Johanna, 14. Michael Olunga
Faruk Shikalo, 23. John Oyemba, 13. Eric Ouma, 15. David Owino, 6. Bernard Ochieng, 17. Ismael Gonzalez, 19. Ovella Ochieng, 8. Johanna Omollo, 16. Paul Were, 9. John Avire, 22. Masud Juma.