In Tanzania win, Harambee Stars had the heart of a Lion
- Harambee Stars, fighting the battle of their lives, gave the appropriate response, twice falling behind to a determined Taifa Stars of Tanzania but showing the steel and mettle to win the battle
- At the end of it they will know that to win matches, huge ones like this, determination and resilience is needed as they showed it here.
Players live for such moments. The ability to soak it all when there is everything to fight for.
Harambee Stars, fighting the battle of their lives, gave the appropriate response, twice falling behind to a determined Taifa Stars of Tanzania but showing the steel and mettle to win the battle. It requires some character, and the emotions told it all, huge celebrations for that matter, rightfully so.
At the end of it they will know that to win matches, huge ones like this, determination and resilience is needed as they showed it here.
Coach Sebastien Migne also showed some bravery, pulling out playmaker Francis Kahata when the diminutive midfielder failed to tick the boxes and also pulling out David Owino ‘Calabar’, a fan favourite. On this he was spot on, the inexperienced Bernard Ochieng being unfurled into the fray for the latter and John Avire for the former.
The end game was a win, a cherished win, one that would be savoured for ages to come. This victory is by far the most important in the team’s history. Forget that victory over Burkina Faso in 2004 in a similar competition in Tunisia, or the goal that the then young Dennis Oliech scored in Nairobi against Cape Verde in 2003 which took them to Tunis.
But as to whether the Friday night win is enough to take them to the last-16 as one of the best four losers, assuming they lose to Senegal on Monday is another matter.
However Migne, calm in his post match assessment gave a coded message that Kahata, who has struggled in this tournament still has a huge role to play in his long term plans, as his exit from the yesterday’s set up saw the Frenchman switch to a 4-4-2 formation, dropping the diamond 4-2-3-1 set-up with the coming on board of Sofapaka ace Avire who partnered Olunga in a two-prong attack.
He explained: “It was a tactical change, it was not against Kahata. He is one of my players since I came here (to Kenya). It’s a little bit more difficult for him in this tournament and sometimes when a player starts not so good a game its difficult for him to come back in the game and this time we were losing and maybe the best thing for me in this moment was to put a second striker to try create some problems for the Tanzanian team,” Migne explained as he hailed his warriors for their battling performance.
Migne could however be handed a mixed dose of news from the treatment room as his number one choice centre-back Joash Onyango who has not featured here with an injury could be ready to face the fearsome Senegal led by Mane on Monday but Philemon Otieno, his first choice right-back in this tourney is a doubt.
He said: “We would see…honestly today (Friday) I don’t know. Joash maybe would be better…Philemon not so but it time to think about Senegal,” he said in his trademark cautious manner.
Whichever way the injury news turns out for him, he will take pride and satisfaction in the second half brave performance where Johanna ‘Tosh’ Omollo and skipper Wanyama morphed into midfield colossus full on grace, poise and elegance while also putting their feet out there for the tackles, a real guard to the defence.
He was the shield, the man with the heart of a Lion in this win. Yes, the team ticked from the back to the middle and upfront where Marcelo’s darting runs in the wings created trouble and so was the towering Olunga with a double, and the aggressive Avire keeping the Tanzanian defence under constant pressure, but the Stars will have to be twice as good, to sweat to the last drop if they are to match Senegal. Two-goal hero and man of the match Michael Olunga knows us much.
“We have to regroup again and focus on Senegal. Senegal is quite another challenge. They have a good squad, good players, Champions League winner Sadio Mane, who is one of the best players in Africa but each and every game you prepare differently and come that day we’re going to give it a good shot,” said the Kashiwa Reysol striker.
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