Why Kenya must not drop Patrick Matasi

Ed Dove believes Sebastien Migne must keep faith with the Harambee Stars stopper despite his recent error against Ghana
As Kenya coach Sebastien Migne begins to put the finishing touches to his Africa Cup of Nations squad, he’d do well not to meddle with the goalkeeping department.

Patrick Matasi has largely been the Frenchman’s stopper of choice since he was appointed Kenya boss in May 2018, and ought to be the national side’s Number One when they take to the field to contest their first Afcon since 2004 in Egypt in June.

However, Matasi’s place in the side has come under some scrutiny recently following the keeper’s horror show in the Stars’ final Nations Cup qualifier against Ghana.

The keeper was at fault for the West Africans’ 83rd-minute goal, as he let a weak effort from debutant Caleb Ekuban sneak through his hands and into the net.

It was a costly error, allowing Ghana to top the qualifying group ahead of Kenya, who had previously enjoyed a fairly impeccable qualifying campaign.

Kenya and Harambee Stars players Patrick Matasi and Francis Kahata.

To his credit, the Ethiopia-based stopper held his hands up after the error.

"We lost the ball in the midfield, and our defenders were beaten and it was unfortunate for us to concede at that time,” Matasi told Goal.

"I miscalculated my timing, and that was a mistake everyone is talking about.

“Everybody wants to do better, and sometimes when things do not go as planned, people turn against you,” he added.

"With Afcon coming, we want to do better, meaning good preparation and support is needed,” the keeper concluded.

“We will do our best to ensure we do not let the nation down.”Harambee Stars and Posta Rangers keeper Patrick Matasi.

In the aftermath of the error, Migne was supportive of his stopper.

“He committed a mistake but I don’t forget what he did before for us,” the coach told journalists, as per the Daily Nation.

“Anyone can make mistakes, say Victor [Wanyama], [Michael] Olunga or Masud [Juma], but teammates will react quickly to rectify the situation.

“When you are a goalkeeper it’s more difficult to be covered for a mistake, it’s not easy to be a good goalkeeper but he is on the right track.

Sebastien Migne of Harambee Stars.

“Since I came, he has been fantastic with at least five clean sheets,” Migne continued. “Against Ghana, until the 83rd minute he was on another clean sheet so we should not forget what he did for us.

“I remember in the first leg against Ghana, he produced an outstanding save at one moment, maybe it was more difficult on Saturday because we travelled during the night a day before the match.

“You know he is a tall guy it’s not the best way to travel in such manner but first of all, he needs to work harder if he wants to be sure in the first eleven.”

Even though Matasi’s error has somewhat overshadowed his qualifying campaign, his impressive performances before the Ghana clash ought not be forgotten.

The keeper hadn’t conceded a goal in 270 minutes heading into the final match, and played a key role for Kenya as they ended their wait for an Afcon berth.Patrick Matasi joins Tusker.

It’s not the first time he’s starred for the East Africans, having also played a key role in the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.

“He’s a quality player and still the safest bet to lead Kenya to the Nations Cup,” vice-captain Musa Mohammed told journalists, as per Nairobi News.

Allan Wanga echoed Mohammed’s words, also noting the importance of Matasi’s experience between the sticks.

“He is a very good goalkeeper, an experienced one for that matter, and the best we have at the moment,” said Wanga.

“He contributed to our qualification to the Nations Cup and we know what he is capable of.”

Should Migne opt for a reshuffle in goal, who could he turn to?

Boniface Oluoch, Gor Mahia, April 2018

The experienced Boniface Oluoch was No. 1 before being replaced by Matasi, and restoring the Gor Mahia man might be seen as a step back for the coach.

Who else could be considered?

John Oyemba, Farouk Shikalo, Ian Otieno and Brian Bwire are other options, but could any truly step into the side and build an effective relationship with the backline before the Nations Cup?

In reality, Migne doesn’t have much of a choice, and he has to back Matasi to put the Black Stars blunder behind him for the challenges to come.

The stopper is in fine form domestically, where Saint George have the joint best defensive record in the Ethiopian top flight, and represents Kenya’s best bet to keep the continent’s top strikers at bay.