Stars blow chance as Comoros hold on for point
Harambee Stars were held in a 1-1 draw by 10-man Comoros at the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani as they blew the chance to go top of Group G of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying matches.
Stars fell to an early setback after Youssouf M’Changama’s fizzing shot from a free-kick deceived goalkeeper Arnold Origi for the opener and the goal-scorer’s bliss swiftly turned to agony when he was sent off for a second booking.
The Kenyans mounted a spirited second half fightback which paid off when Masoud Juma volleyed home the equaliser from close range after Cliff Nyakeya had flicked Eric Johanna’s cross into the six-yard area.
Juma had a strong penalty appeal turned down after he was tripped by captain Abdou Najim inside the penalty box and Stars had another effort by skipper Victor Wanyama cleared off the line late on.
Stars failed to convert several clear cut chances especially in the second half, to agonizingly register the stalemate which fairly dented their chances of returning to the AFCON for a second time in succession.
With three draws (three points), two from home, Kenya will need to beat Comoros away on Sunday to rejig their campaign for the Cameroon journey.
Mamelodi Sundowns centre-back Brian Mandela made the first attempt of the match in the second minute, heading Ayub Timbe’s free kick only to miss the target with the goalkeeper completely lost.
A sumptuous cross from the right channel to Anrezieux man Madi Ibrahim was cut off by Mandela for a corner in the fifth, as the visitors sought to respond almost immediately.
Timbe made a couple of fine runs on the left channel, giving his marker Najim trouble to thwart his promising moves.
Impressively for Najim, he ensured the important last ball by the speedy winger was not as beneficial to the men in the middle.
In the 20th, M’changama had his shot denied by Stars custodian Origi, having been picked up by Mohammed Youssouf from the right flank.
Two minutes later Ali Madi had only Origi to beat but could not guide the ball into the net, exploiting a miscommunication between Mandela and his fellow centre-back Joseph Okumu.
The breakthrough came in the 26th when M’changama’s free kick from outside the 18-yard box beat Origi to the right top corner. It appeared it had taken a deflection but indeed it had not, as Okumu avoided the ball that was directed straight to him in the block wall.
However, it changed direction midway to leave Origi flat footed.
The free kick was awarded following Wanyama’s body charge on a Comoros player, trying to make amends for a lost possession by teammate Eric Johanna.
At the half hour mark, Nyakeya forced Comoros’ keeper Ahamada Ali to a full stretch save, ambushing the hitherto untested custodian with a hard left-foot shot.
With five minutes to the break, Comoros were reduced to 10 men after goal scorer M’changama was shown his second yellow card for time wastage, having been booked in the 10th minute.
Timbe would be denied again by impressive Ahamada, after a series of well threaded passes in the Comoros box.
At the restart, the only local based player in the Kenya’s side Samuel Olwande was withdrawn for Zesco United’s David ‘Calabar’ Owino as Mulee sought to make amends in the defense. Popularly known as Dola, Olwande had not helped much in building up from the back at the right.
Nyakeya would immediately make the first attempt of the second stanza for Kenya, but the shot flew wide.
The hardworking former Mathare United winger, now playing for Egypt’s Masr, provided a fine cross for Johanna who had quite a dull day but Ahamada Ali parried it out for a corner.
Determined Stars, capitalising on the one man deficit, camped in the Comoros half overworking the opponents in the defense, especially the splendid keeper Ahamada.
The pressure paid dividends in the 65th minute, when Johanna chipped the ball to Nyakeya at the edge of the six-yard box, who connected Juma with a header to finish off with an overhead kick to level.
Masoud thought he had won a penalty after he was brought down by captain Najim in the box, but the referee ignored his calls.
Wanyama had his shot cleared on the line by Najim, having beaten the keeper before substitute Mark Makwatta’s effort was also blocked at the right post.
Not even late substitutes Boniface Muchiri and Hassan Abdalla who came on for Nyakeya and and Timbe respectively would make the difference, as the Islanders clung on to salvage a draw keeping their unbeaten record in the qualifiers.
Other group members Togo and Egypt clash on Saturday, in Cairo.
Kenya’s Starting XI: Arnold Origi (GK), Samuel Olwande, Eric Ouma, Joseph Okumu, Brian Mandela, Victor Wanyama, Cliff Nyakeya, Johana Omollo, Erick Johanna Omondi, Ayub Timbe, Masud Juma
Substitutes: Ian Otieno (GK), Brian Bwire (GK), David Owino Odhiambo, David Owino Ambulu, John Avire, John Mark Makwata, Ismael Gonzalez, Hassan Abdallah, Bonface Muchiri, Johnstone Omurwa, Kenneth Muguna, Anthony Akumu.