Stars secure point in Congo
Harambee Stars launched their campaign for the 2017 African Cup of Nations finals with a hard fought 1-1 draw away to Congo on Sunday.
Both sides gave a shaky performance devoid of panache, but Kenya will draw confidence ahead of their next fixture against former African champions Zambia in Nairobi in September.
Stars coach Bobby Williamson sprung a surprise by handing AFC Leopards Noah Wafula a starting position in a 4-4-2 formation in what appeared to be a well-laid plan to pack the midfield.
And the strategy paid off as Kenya took the lead within the 12th minutes. Destructive winger Paul Were, who is closing in on move to Gor Mahia, won the plaudits with a brilliantly struck goal after charging forward from the left wing.
Stars caused a few more anxious moments for the hosts but looked venerable at the back with central defense partnership of David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng and Jackson Saleh struggling to cut off aerial balls.
They were made to pay for their erratic defending when Saleh, under pressure, handled in the box in the 37th minute for a penalty which Congolese skipper Prince Oniangue calmly converted despite Boniface Olouch diving the right way.
However, Oluoch’s overall performance was a far cry from his impressive display in the first leg of the Kenyan Premier League between the sticks for Gor Mahia,
His jittery display left many Kenyan fans counting themselves lucky for not conceding another goal.
Michael Olunga, another youngster handed a chance by Williamson on the big stage, partnered Allan Wanga upfront, but he uncharacteristically fluffed an open chance infront of a gaping goalmouth in the third minute from Were’s cross.
Moments after Kenya took the lead, Olunga came close to atoning for his miss with a curling effort that flashed past the left upright.
In the second half, Williamson introduced Ayub Timbe and Kevin Kimani for Wafula and Were but the move failed to inject a spark the team’s performance.
Kenya and Congo are now joint top of Group E with a point apiece same as Zambia and Guinea Bissau who played to a barren draw on Saturday in Zambia.
Harambee Stars line up: Boniface Oluoch, Aboud Omar, Jackson Saleh, David Owino, David Ochieng, Victor Wanyama, Collins Okoth, Paul Were (Kevin Kiamni), Noah Wafula (Ayub Timbe), Michael Olunga, Allan Wanga (Anthony Akumu)