A wasteful Mathare United remain in the bottom half of the Kenya Premier League (KPL) after goals from Moses Arita and a stunning Francis Kahata strike rewarded Thika United with all three points at the Nyayo Stadium on Friday’s.

Thika United coach, John Kamau, stuck with his sides’ tried and tested 4-3-3 formation; with Joseph Kuria and Michael Luvutsi anchoring the more creative Francis Kahata in midfield. Kamau was disappointed to be without the services of his latest acquisitions; Haji Mwachoki and Wycliffe Opondo, both having failed to be registered to Thika United in time for the game.

Following their 3-1 win over Karuturi Sports, Mathare Utd’s coach, Stanley Okumbi, kept his sides’ favoured 4-4-2 formation; with influential striker Francis Ouma leading the line alongside Andrew Tololwa. In midfield, Dennis Nzomo, returned to the side after his recent outing with Kenya’s Harambee Stars.

The ‘Slum Boys’ find space in wide areas

Thika’s use of a narrow midfield three gave them a numerical advantage in the centre but surrendered space to Mathare on the flanks. This was a bold move by John Kamau, particularly when dealing with one of the KPL’s most effective target men, Francis Ouma.

With fifteen minutes gone his gamble seemed to be backfiring. Mathare were dominant in possession and had created four clear goal-scoring opportunities. Thika’s defensive midfielder, Michael Luvutsi, was struggling to track Ouma movement off the ball, with the striker making dangerous runs between Thika’s midfield and defensive lines. Luvutsi’s positioning was intended to provide Thika with an option to play the ball out of defense, into the feet of Kahata and Kuria, but with Andrew Tololwa tracking the runs of the midfielder, Michael Luvutsi had a difficult opening to the game; in and out of possession.

But on eighteen minutes it was Thika that took advantage of space on Mathare’s left flank to take a shock lead. A sloppy recovery run from Mathare defender, Mwangi, and a quick combination breakaway from Thika’s right back, Chitayi, left Kimani out of position and led to him conceding a penalty, after handling the ball inside the penalty area.

Despite conceding the first goal, Mathare’s enthusiasm to utilise the space on the flanks continued. Kuria and Kahata were only ever prepared to show the Thika fullbacks and wingers down the line, and Mulbah and Miheso barely tracked back behind the halfway line. Notwithstanding this good intent, Mathare’s Ouma, Tololwa and Jesse were all guilty of missing good chances in the first half.

Failure to pickup Kahata

In the second half, as Thika began to enjoy more possession, and an interesting pattern of movement began to provide their influential playmaker, Francis Kahata, with time and space on the ball.

Mathare – now chasing the game – tried to apply more pressure on Thika when they had the ball in deeper areas. Ouma and Tololwa pressed Thika’s central defenders, and Dennis Nzomo stepped out from central midfield to deny Luvutsi time to turn and play the ball out of the defensive third. However, Mathare’s Nzomo was covering a greater distance, than Tololwa did in the first half, to close down Luvutsi, which left the Thika midfielder with time to turn and pick out forward passes.

But pressing Thika in this way left Mathare exposed, themselves, in central midfield. With Nzomo pushed up, marking Luvutsi, Nduro was posed with a difficult choice, ‘Do I go tight on Kuria or Kahata?’ He did neither, shifting into a more central position, gifting both opponents time to select a pass. On the left side, Kahata was helped by the marauding runs of Bogere and Milheso, which kept Mathare’s Jesse Were and Buki occupied and allowed Kahata to dictate the tempo of Thika’s attacks.

It also facilitated Thika United second goal; with Kahata allowed to run, almost unopposed, into the attacking third, the Kenya youth international promptly rifling his shot into the far right hand corner of the net.

Thika switch to 4-5-1 

John Kamau, shifted his side’s formation to a more solid and well balanced 4-5-1, soon after Kahata’s goal.

Miheso and Mulbah were moved back into deeper, wider, areas off the ball, leaving Kahata and Mulbah to provide supporting options in the transition.

It was an intelligent move by Kamau. Luvutsi’s starting position was slight deeper than the first half, allowing him to shut down the space available to Tololwa and Ouma. But the move killed the game as a spectacle and despite a 68th minute goal from Tololwa, the Slum Bloys succumbed to another crucial home defeat.