Our friend Vincent Agan watched the GOtv Shield final for us, instead of his normal pieces, this time round, he ventured into the tactical side of the game- While Pinchez goal capped off a beautiful evening for Ingwe, his idea is that- Musali was one of the rocks for Ingwe, whether you agree or not, this piece offers a beautiful and simple view into the tactics of Bobby and Nandwa and how the latter managed to get his team into Continental duty.
AFC Leopards came out 1-0 winners over KPL champions Gor Mahia in the last Mashemeji derby of the season in the GOtv Shield final played on Sunday.
Both teams went 4-3-3ish with youngster Wanyonyi and the fleet-footed Mutiso flanking Sserenkuma in attack for Gor and the frightening 3 Ws of Wafula, Were and Wanga continued as the Ingwe frontline.
Nandwa went for Imbalambala, Okwemba and Opiyo in midfield while Williamson preferred the dynamic trio of Ochieng, Akumu and Njuguna in the middle of the pack.
Cup finals can be boring, almost soporific, but this game turned out to be an intriguing tactical battle as well as an exciting match for the neutral although the low number of clear-cut goal scoring opportunities did, once again, reinforce that big-game-few-goals cliché.
A structured way of looking at the match is by breaking it down into 2 phases; before the goal where Gor looked liked they had dealt with the Ingwe threat from wide and after the goal where Ingwe defended intelligently to hold on for an emphatic win.
Before the goal
Lately, Leopards have started games with high intensity, trying to get beyond the oppositions back line with quick movement. The favored forward 3 of Wanga, Were & Wafula are quick & strong players that constantly try to create 1v1 situations early in the game.
This explains the early goals, most recently against Kakamega Homeboyz where they scored within seconds after kick off!
The green army needed to prevent such a start for Ingwe to avoid going behind early in such a game. And they did that excellently such that AFC had their first real chance of the game in the 25th minute; a Juma Abdallah free-kick from wide. On that front, the Gor backline – full-backs Musa and Owino in particular – deserve a pat on the back for keeping Wafula and Were at bay for a huge chunk of the game.
On their part, Bobby Williamson’s side looked the more likely to score of the 2 teams during that period with Sserenkuma heavily involved in creating some promising openings in the final third although very little came about in terms of clear-cut chances.
It’s always interesting how Sserenkuma leads the line: Not a particularly good target man that bullies defenders about or wins ariel duels but he specializes in finding pockets of space by drifting wide to evade the attention of defenders or dropping deep to pick the ball in space then turning and running at defenders with his dribbling.
He was at it again in the first half. However, since the 2013 KPL champions look more threatening when the Ugandan plays alongside an attacker playing more central and closer to him, I thought Kiongera in place of one of Wanyonyi or Mutiso would have been more effective in an attacking sense but given the threat of AFC in the wings, it was understandable that Bobby picked the 2 to protect the fullbacks.
Wanga on the other hand likes to play on the shoulder of the last defender and constantly tries to run in-behind. He is excellent in 1v1 situations with a knack for latching onto low crosses at the near post. These qualities make him less sophisticated with his style, albeit effective for AFC, than Sserenkuma.
On the day however, by his standards, the Ingwe number 14 had a quiet game and only came into life when Gor pushed up higher to search for an equalizer leaving space in-behind. More on that later:
After the goal
Despite Gor restricting AFC’s attacks down the wings early in the match, you always felt that Nandwa’s men could punish them if they indeed got an opening in the wide areas. And so it happened.
In the 52nd minute, Wafula got past Musa on the right(for the first time in the match) and his low cross found Opiyo on one of his forays into the box to place the ball beautifully past Onyango in goal.
This goal epitomized AFC’s attacking under Nandwa: Pace on the wing, low delivery into the box and first-time shot on goal. Goal to Ingwe!
Credit to Leopards for not only executing this move with such perfection but doing it consistently well over a number of matches. The first goals in the 2-2 draw vs Gor earlier in the league and last week’s 2-1 win over Kakamega Homeboyz come to mind.
But the Achilles’ heel for this Ingwe side has been how they react after going ahead. They’ve allowed teams back into the game after taking the lead seemingly because of getting caught in no-man’s land when they have to decide between keeping up the pressure on the opponents goal to extend the lead or switching to a low block to see out the game.
Here though, Ingwe played excellently after taking the lead because of three reasons:
- They switched to a low block which ensured Musalia’s goal was protected with numbers.
- Imbalambala played closer to central defenders Kimani and Saleh to deny Sserenkuma and co. space in-between the lines.
- Peter Opiyo was instrumental in slowing down the tempo of the game after scoring winner.
Also, Gor pushing up to look for an equalizer meant Wanga now had space to run into unlike in the first half. This was evident in the 74th minute when the Kenyan international went on a mazy run before releasing substitute Kadenge who shot tamely at goal for a great chance.
The Scot tried to salvage the game with a trio of subs around the 70th minute with Kiongera, Omondi and Lavatsa coming on but Nandwa’s tactics minimized their impact on the game.
Man of the Match
Both teams played satisfactorily well with no standout performers but it’s hard to look past Peter Opiyo. His duel with Gor’s Akumu in midfield was the stand-out battle on the pitch which he won first by nullifying Akumu’s impact on the game, then gliding past him to arrive in the box unchecked on a number of occasions, scoring the winner and then slowing the tempo of the game with a composed performance. That Zidane-like turn past Akumu in the 46th minute remains a highlight of the match for me.
My Man of the Match, however, goes to Musalia in goal for Ingwe for his two saves at crucial times in the game. First, he incredibly dived to his top left corner in the 44th minute to push out a goal-bound Akumu header from a corner to prevent Gor taking the lead then he showed amazing reflexes to react to a Kiongera header in the 89th minute to maintain the score line at 1-0 to Ingwe.
These moments decide this kind of fixture and Martin Musalia came out on top on both occasions.
This was a close encounter where two top coaches show-cased great tactical nous in playing the opponent of the day. Williamson countered the pace of Ingwe in wide areas fairly well while Nandwa changed his team’s recent gung ho approach for a controlled performance fit for a cup final.
Congratulations to Ingwe who will now represent Kenya in the CAF Confederations Cup next year.