Analysis : How Hassan Beja has become integral to AFC Leopards' revival

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FKFPL Analysis : How Hassan Beja has become integral to AFC Leopards' revival

Mark Kinyanjui 08:00 - 07.02.2024

How Hassan Beja has been integral in AFC Leopards' mid-season revival.

When Boniface Munyendo scored AFC Leopards’ second goal in as many minutes during their 2-0 win over Kariobangi Sharks to send the fans at Nyayo National Stadium into delirium, you could feel that there was a new sense of energy about Ingwe.

And why not? After all, the club have now gone unbeaten in each of their last five games, and to add to that, four of those have been  wins.

Everyone seems to be clicking to gear and you can tell that there is a sense of unity and cohesion about the team. 

More keen observers will however notice the influence that Hassan Beja has had on the team ever since he started against Kakamega Homeboyz in December.

Although right footed, Beja has given the team a different dynamic on the left flank with his pace especially when running with the ball down that side with Vincent Mahiga acting as his decoy runner at full back.

He has also shown his capability to do as well on the right flank, especially darting in behind with clever runs.

The two players, both signed from Nzoia Sugar in the off season, already had an understanding from the off, but Beja had mostly been appearing as a substitute since joining the club, initially under Tom Juma, and then under Tomas Trucha, with both coaches initially opting to use his pace to exploit tiring defences as a substitute rather than as a starter.

However, as a starter, he has found his home in the Den, especially considering that Trucha’s game has an emphasis on attacking direct and using the wingers to attack the spaces.

Although the club also has an abundance of speedy players like Maxwell Otieno (Who himself has been a big revelation since being taken to a more central position where he can float across the front and also play on the shoulder of the last defender), Jaffari Owiti and Cliff Nyakeya, Beja has been a big nightmare for KPL fullbacks.

Take the game against Homeboyz as an example, where he started on the right wing.

He was constantly providing width by stretching the pitch and playing on the shoulder of the defender, which allowed Clifton Miheso the time and space to hold up the ball before releasing him into space time and again, as illustrated by this seventh minute move.

Miheso is in posession of the ball with Beja on the blind side of the Homeboyz left back
Miheso then spots Beja making the run before he releases this throughball for him to get on the end of
Before he hits the ball against the side netting.

He would score his first goal for the club some 30 minutes later darting in off the right after this brilliant piece of individual display by Otieno.

Otieno receives the ball and contests for it with Homeboyz right back Brian Buleti
Buleti initially wins the ball, making Otieno fall, but the Leopards forward gets up on his feet and drives with it inside
Before spoting Beja who runs in behind Chris Masinza to score his maiden Leopards goal.

Although Mahiga has been criticised for lack of being decisive in the final third, his willingness to hug the line also allows Beja to drift narrow and get on the end of line breaking passes.

A good example is in the situation below against Kariobangi Sharks, where Beja did well to smartly dart through the Kariobangi Sharks defender Timothy Ekhavi  who had gotten too tight on him before finding himself through on goal and dinking it just over the bar.

Kaycie Odhiambo makes a brilliant line-breaking pass towards Beja who drifts inside
Notice Mahiga has hugged the line which means Beja can receive infield.
Beja bypasses Ekhavi and is now through on goal.
Sharks keeper Bernard Jairo is forced to rush out of his box in efforts to stop him.
Beja dinks the ball smartly but it is unlucky to go just over the ball.

Beja is also not afraid to take his man on with the ball apart from just make a willing run in behind. It was this proactiveness that won Leopards the penalty to open the scoring against Sharks.

Beja receives the ball outside the box and bravely drives the ball inside the box
Before winning the penalty inside.

Trucha said when he took charge of the club for the first time in 2020 that he wanted to instill a playing style that would get fans off their seats in a manner not too-dissimilar to Jurgen Klopp’s whose game is about direct running on the end of channel balls.

Trucha has shown his willingness to get his wide men to be his “match winners”, and Beja is showing he really is a match winner for the side.

While AFC Leopards continue in their quest to become as good as their squad on paper suggests they could, Hassan Beja is really starting to show why he was brought into the team.

They will hope he can keep continuing at his pace.

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