Kenya humbled in Ethiopia
Harambee Stars’ hopes of featuring in next year’s African Nations Championship (Chan) tournament were dealt a serious blow after they lost 2-0 to hosts Ethiopia in a qualifying encounter on Sunday.
Kenya’s expectations were substantially high following a 1-1 draw away to the Republic of Congo in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match seven days ago.
But against the Walia Ibex, the homegrown Stars squad was a pale shadow of itself.
The Kenyan lads fell behind in the 23rd minute of the match when winger Asechalew Girma beat goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch with a well-worked goal after being set up by midfielder Mentsenot Adane.
The experienced striker Gatoch Panom, who scored in Ethiopia’s 2-1 win over Lesotho last weekend, doubled the hosts’ advantage in 77th minute through a penalty awarded for a Noah Wafula foul on Binyam Assefa inside the box.
Ethiopia held to the end of the match for a score line that gives them a good cushion ahead of the second leg encounter in Nairobi.
Coach Bobby Williamson opted to start with Gor Mahia striker Michael Olunga as a lone striker in an unusual 4-5-1 formation, with Bernard Mang’oli, Humphrey Mieno, Collins “Gattuso” Okoth, Kevin Kimani and Noah Wafula packing the midfield area.
Olunga was uncharacteristically wasteful as he fluffed three chances that Harambee Stars created in the first half.
The misses proved costly as Ethiopia converted the first of their four chances in the first half.
Late in the match with Ethiopia leading 2-0, Kenya won a penalty of their own, but Tusker striker Kevin Kimani sent the ball straight into the hands of the Ethiopian goalkeeper to the delight of the fans who packed the Bahir Dar Stadium 500km north west of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Williamson summoned the fresh legs of Ali Abondo, Jacob Keli, Jesse Were in place of Wafula, Mieno and Kimani, but all to no avail.
“We had a hard time keeping the ball today. We lost, but that is not to say that we have given up. We shall see how to improve when we get back home,” Stars assistant coach Musa Otieno said after the match.