Five things learnt in Harambee Stars’ domination of Malawi

FOOTBALL Five things learnt in Harambee Stars’ domination of Malawi

Mark Kinyanjui 08:01 - 24.03.2024

Here are some of the things Pulse Sports learnt from Harambee Stars' 4-0 win over Malawi.

On Saturday evening, Harambee Stars picked up where they left off against Seychelles by brushing aside Malawi 4-0 in their opening encounter of the Four Nations tournament.

Stars looked comfortable throughout the game and deservedly won the match, which will have the players looking forward to their second clash against Zimbabwe in a buoyant mood after the disappointment in the opening fixture.

Here are some of the things we learnt from their win.

Patrick Matasi oozes calmness

Patrick Matasi looked the part during the side’s monumental victory, displaying the level of performance expected of an experienced goalkeeper.

He organised his defenders well, and was generally calm, which was epitomised by how he saved the penalty that Malawi had been awarded.

Although a fully fit Byrne Omondi is ideally seen as the first choice goalkeeper when fully fit, Matasi has deputised capably and could be in line to win back his place on a permanent basis, having just won his place back last November for the first time in over four years, which was really the last time he was first choice keeper during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Newbies look the part

Firat handed debuts to AFC Leopards left back Vincent Mahiga and Tusker’s Chris Erambo in midfield, but surrounded them with a framework of vastly experienced players.

It was a decision that worked very well for both players, who displayed alot of maturity, and you could not really tell whether they were new to the scene/

Rambo displayed an infectious display, making laye runs into the box to support the attack, and also tracked back when needed given his industry.

Mahiga should have done better with his challenge on the Malawi winger that resulted in a penalty, but did well to deputise for both Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma and Abud Omar.

Olunga ends profligacy

Michael Olunga had to take alot of stick from Kenyan fans for much of 2023 for his profligate performances upfront, prompting them into asking for him to be dropped.

Olunga looks to have shut them up -at least for now- with his second goal of the night coincidentally being his fourth in two games.

The former Girona striker did well as well with other aspects of his game. He linked the play well with his back to goal, which often allowed the likes of Ayub Timbe and Erambo to make runs off him, and found himself in good positions.

Ahead of the Zimbabwe clash, he will be hoping he can carry on the same momentum onto the next fixture.

Key players build fitness with minutes

Firat had the pleasure of having to work with most of his first choice team during the win over Malawi. Johnstone Omurwa and Joseph Okumu looked the part, and they both completed the full match after bouncing back from fitness, having not played a lot of football for their club sides recently due to injury.

Daniel Anyembe and Ayub Timbe also featured after spells of being unable to play due to fitness issues, and Firat will be hoping they can stay fit moving forward, especially with a monumental June coming up when they will be playing both Ivory Coast and Burundi at home.

Could 4-3-3 be the answer?

Firat had hinted before the side jetted out to Malawi that he would be trying a new system, and that is exactly what he did, moving from his preferred 4-2-3-1/ 4-4-2 set up to a 4-3-3, with Chris Erambo playing as a lateral third man runner from deep.

Given Erambo can also play deep, it also meant that off the ball, they defended in a 4-3-3 shape, which gave the side extra security and prevented Malawi from creating inroads infield.

Ahead of their Ivory Coast assignment in June, this set up could be crucial , especially given the reigning African champions play three workhorses in midfield.

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