Gor land Berkane of Morocco in CAF quarters as Oktay ponders formation
Kenyan football powerhouse Gor Mahia has drawn RS Berkane of Morocco in the CAF Confederations Cup quarter-finals clash with the first leg clash set for April 7 in Nairobi, with the return leg taking place a week later in Morocco.
The draws were done Wednesday evening at the Confederation of African Football headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.
With the draws out, the hard-work now begins for Gor’s head coach Hassan Oktay whowill miss upto five key players for the first leg clash in Nairobi and the available ones must give 100 percent, and the coach must get the best out of them especially by selecting the most suitable for the match, with the ability to grind out results.
We take an audit of each department and what needs to be done to ensure K’Ogalo, having weathered the group storm, sails to the semis.
It is no brainer that in the absence of Fredrick Odhiambo, Boniface Oluoch should take charge between the sticks.
In fact, the experienced Oluoch should be bolder at this level than Odhiambo, having played high profile CAF inter-club matches since inheriting the gloves from retired Jerim Onyango. He has represented Kenya several times before St. Georges’ Patrick Matasi showed more reasons to be Kenya One.
The good Oluoch should just be reminded of how brilliant he can be on his good day in office, and how erratic he can be in equal measure. The latter must not suffice at this stage.
A scout would fear to face a Gor with Oluoch if his only record of the custodian is a mouth-watering performance on his good day, but the extreme opposite would be the reality if he is seen say for example, in the Yanga SC versus Gor in Dar es Salaam group stage clash last year when he conceded easy goals that a rookie custodian would ably deal with.
He However has a chance to make his experience count at the looming assignment where making errors is a no no situation.
The defacto third choice goalkeeper at Gor, Shaban Odhoji, would be a risk to parade unless a situation forces, having been inactive for the better part of the season.
This is a critical area that playing the first match at home, must be handled with caution. Without the towering skipper Haron Shakava at the centre back, suspended for this tie and the hardworking Shafiq Batambuze on the left-full-back , Oktay has every reason to scratch his head.
Charles Momanyi has the technical ability to replace Shakava, as injured Joash Onyango who missed Sunday’s epic clash against Petro Atletico takes number four role that the former played. That is, if he is fully recovered by the time Gor play in the quarters on April 7. Onyango’s form has arguably dropped after sustaining injuries since late last year, but his almost perfect timing and the fighting nature gives him an edge over Joachim Oluoch, who should be the second option if he cannot be fit in time.
On the left, Geoffrey Ochieng who was drafted in by assistant coach Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno after Batambuze was sent to the showers in last weekend’s historic clash against Atletico, remains a firm favourite to start. He however has a lot of work to do to fit into Batambuze’s shoes, especially where a calm head is needed like in the build-up play from behind.
Knowing the dents in the K’Ogalo defence, Gor’s technical bench moreso coach Oktay and his deputy, Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno, a legend at the club, must be reminded that any naivety would be costly as conceding at home in the competition means an early exit even before the rematch, set for April 14 in what will certainly be a hostile ground in Morocco.
It thus goes without saying that current Kenya’s best full-back at the moment, Philemon Otieno, must keep his place in the team.
Thus, Oluoch in goal, guarded by Otieno, Ochieng, Onyango and Momanyi, complete the back five.
The absence of the burly Ernest Wendo may not be felt, if Kenneth Muguna and Lawrence Juma are synced to take in. Muguna has shown brilliant defensive qualities under Oktay, from his natural creative role, – in advanced midfield position that the evergreen Francis Kahata thrives on without breaking a sweat.
Thus, Muguna would serve as the best shield in front of the back-four, his intelligence on the ball substituting the hard tackles of Wendo.
Juma, having built confidence under Oktay than with former coach Dylan Kerr, would keep his place as Kahata and Boniface Omondi pulls the trick on left and right flanks respectively.
But we must not forget that George Odhiambo can do better than Omondi, in such a case swapping with Kahata on the left, provided he works on his attitude. Odhiambo’s attitude has been his biggest impediment to a regular first team action under Oktay giving Omondi a chance to thrive. Oktay thus needs to say a big thank you to Omondi for his intelligence that won the decisive penalty against Atletico that took Gor to the quarters but task him to deliver better crosses for the finishers. On a day that the number of goals you score matters, such deliveries are too important especially when you have Odhiambo who can easily convert, compared to a fast rising Omondi who is not very clinical and still bereft of the necessary experience.
Oktay will need to call for more aggression among his attacking midfielders, knowing his most valuable striker Jacques Tuyisenge will be missing. Just like Harambee Stars coach Sebastian Migne is sure of one of his offensive midfielders – Eric Johanna – can deliver a goal when his favourite striker Michael Olunga leaves his football boots at home, Oktay will need such from his men at the middle park.
This is where Gor will decide if their CAF Confederations Cup journey this season ends or continues.
From the trend learnt so far, you must win at home before thinking of an away result. Losing with big margins would not be a surprise away, thus Oktay must plan for a huge win at home. A win that can be guarded away, an insurance that gives cover and protection against the slippery North Africans in their backyard.
So who sits in for the current Gor crowd favourite Tuyisenge? Dennis “The Menace” Oliech without an iota of doubt despite his recent menace with the club administration. There are no buts. No second thoughts. No better options.
His experience at top level, his ‘golden’ touch on the ball and rare finishing instinct makes him the favourite to bridge the gap.
If the midfielders can run a little bit more and provide him with good through-balls, Oliech can strike not once but twice or thrice in any given day.
Being a darling of local fans, Oliech will pull the 12th man more than any other player whenever he touches the ball.
Having him as the lead striker leaves Oktay with the option of a more creative shadow striker in a 4-4-2 formation, and Francis Mustapha thus makes the first 11. Mustapha has a lot to prove though. Oktay will have to be cautious though to gauge his ability to deliver in a match of such magnitude to judge. If not, Samuel Onyango, very energetic with the ability to torment full backs, fits the bill.
Nicholas Kipkirui, brilliant so far this term should be reserved as a trump card and summoned when the veteran Oliech has run out of the gas in his tank.
The idea would be to get at least two goals and leak none. The 4-4-2 formation would work best for Oktay factoring the key men making the absentees list. If the available members are able to nail at least two unanswered goals, the away job should be a battle of sweat and blood but which is doable.
Although he justifiably defended his men for the numerous bookings that have resulted to the suspensions, Oktay has to caution them against avoidable cards before their ugly face manifests. You don’t win every day without your best players. You don’t win every day with less two men on the pitch!
Last but not the least, all players ‘must be sworn’ to believe they are the bet for the duty at hand no matter who misses. Full responsibility is on their shoulders, that’s a song someone has to sing in the dressing room, even as the vociferous Green Army makes the Kasarani terraces rocking for the entire 90 plus minutes.Go ye Gor!
Probable Starting Eleven
Boniface Oluoch, Philemon Otieno, Geoffrey Ochieng, Joash Onyango, Charles Momanyi, Kenneth Muguna, Boniface Omondi, Lawrence Juma, Dennis Oliech, Francis Mustapha, Francis Kahata.
Shaban Odhoji, Joachim Olouch, Wellington Ochieng, Samuel Onyango, George Odhiambo, Nicholas Kipkirui and Cercidy Okeyo.
CAF CONFED QUARTERS FIXTURES
Nkana FC 🇿🇲 vs 🇹🇳 CS Sfaxien
Etoile Sahel 🇹🇳 vs 🇸🇩 Al Hilal Club
Hassania Agadir 🇲🇦 vs 🇪🇬 Zamalek SC
Gor Mahia FC 🇰🇪 vs 🇲🇦 RS Berkane