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Caf Champions League: Tusker seek to have last laugh

FOOTBALL By Washington Onyango | September 13th 2021
Tusker’s Jimmy Mbugua (left), Tanzanian striker Ibrahim Joshua (centre) and Boniface Muchiri celebrate their opening goal against Arta Solar of Djibouti in their Caf Champions League preliminary round, on Saturday. [Courtesy]

After picking up a crucial away goal in their 1-1 draw against Arta Solar 7 of Djibouti in the first leg of the preliminary round of Caf Champions League, the Kenyans believe they will complete the work when the two sides meet for the return leg on Saturday.

Despite the slim advantage, Tusker coach Robert Matano said he is aiming at winning the Saturday match rather than banking on the away goal advantage.

New signing Ibrahim Joshua opened his account with Tusker by giving the visitors the lead in the 14th minute before former AS Monaco winger Alain Traore ensured parity in the match that was played behind closed doors.

Speaking to Standard Sports, Matano, who blamed technicalities and hot weather in the build-up to the match, said they will be ready for the Djiboutian champions in Nairobi.

Matano said the team did not work together after travelling separately via Ethiopia and Doha and only trained together for an hour on Friday before match day.

“It was difficult to work together as a team considering we were in different groups. Technicalities also affected our game plan where we had to make final changes in our starting lineup.”

“However, I am happy with how we played. Everyone gave their best in the hot humid temperatures which showed the resilience and flexibility of the team when things are not going as planned.”

“Arta Solar is beatable and we are going to be ready for them come Saturday. Our focus is not on the away goal at all as we want to win and move to the next stage,” explained Matano.

“We conceded from a set piece which is always unlikely for us and those are some of the mistakes we are going to rectify ahead of the second leg. It was a good performance from the boys after all the problems and we will be ready.”

Tusker will host the second leg on Saturday at Nyayo Stadium hoping to proceed to the first round.

Matano named five new signings in his lineup which included custodian Brian Bwire, Charles Momanyi, Clyde Senaji, Ibrahim Joshua and Daniel Sakari. He said he was impressed with how the new players have settled in.

“The new players are growing with the team so well despite not playing together for long. I haven’t had the problem of creating chemistry between the old and new players because they know each other and am glad to help nurture their talent at Tusker,” said the former AFC Leopards coach.

Tusker retuned to the Champions League after four years in the cold and will be attempting to qualify for the next round after their attempt in 2017 was ended by AS Port-Louis 2000 of Mauritius who knocked them out on a 3-2 aggregate score.

If the brewers knock out Arta Solar, they will meet Egyptian giants Zamalek in the first round with the first leg set for October 15-17.

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