Three-star Senegal leave Kenya on the brink
Swila Isaac in Cairo, Egypt
At the immaculate 30 June Stadium here in Cairo, the stars aligned themselves for Senegalese Lions as they mauled Kenya 3-0 thanks to an inspired second half blitz at the Egyptian capital.
The resounding victory meant the Lions of Teranga are into the last 16 of Africa Cup of Nations but left Harambee Stars’ chances of making it to the continent’s premier football competition in tatters.
After defending so well in the first half, Kenya buckled under the weight of pressure in the second half as Sadio Mane atoned for his penalty miss with a brace after Ismaila Sarr had put Senegal in front with a spectacular half volley.
For his transgressions on Sarr in the 70th minute, Stars right back Philemon Otieno was sent to the locker room for a second bookable offence and with it the Stars trailing 0-3 were left with a mountain as high as Kilimanjaro to climb against such steely opponent.
Kenyan goalie Patrick Matasi had earlier on threatened to claim the man-of-the-match award with spectacular saves in the first half including denying Mane from the spot but the winds blew in the opposite direction in the second half.
After denying the Lions of Teranga for 62 minutes, Ismaila Sarr broke Kenya’s resolute defending with a deadly yet composed bullet finish in the 62nd minute, a neat strike that went curling into the right corner of Matasi’ net.
The goal by all standards was cruel to a Kenyan side who until now had showed mettle, fought bravely and defended resolutely as they frustrated the Senegalese, chasing for an outright win after being put to the sword 1-0 by Algeria in their last game.
Senegal doubled their advantage just eight minutes after Sarr had broken the deadlock and it was Stars defender Musa Mohamed at fault for failing to bring down under control a long ball from Lamine Gassama.
Mohamed’s initial attempt to head it clear failed and Mane was on hand to pounce with what looked like a soft nudge on the defender before racing clear on goal and slotting it calmly beyond the on-rushing Matasi.
The match was well and truly beyond Stars’ reach seven minutes later when Senegal were awarded another penalty after Sarr was hacked down by a late Philemon Otieno challenge.
The defender was booked for a second time on the night and was thus sent off with Mane stepping up to face Matasi again. Matasi went the right way but the Liverpool FC forward got the power and direction right to bury it as Senegal went 3-0 up.
Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne clearly went for a defensive formation and his boys did well to stick to the game plan for the first 45 minutes, Otieno being the team’s weakest link in this spell at his work station down the right before he was given marching orders. Playing at this level requires huge experience and it showed, taking toll on him.
Kenya’s best chance in the first half was a Michael Olunga dinked effort in the eighth minute missing the target narrowly with the Senegalese goalkeeper out of his line, this should have given the Stars a mental edge, settling nerves.
Senegal then attacked, Mbaye Niang coming close in the 21st minute, squeezing his way past several legs in Kenya’s danger area but Patrick Matasi was alert in Kenya’s goal thwarting his attempt.
Migne once again stuck to his now preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Michael Olunga roaming upfront as the only target man while Dennis Odhiambo, benched in the savoured 3-2 win over Tanzania, was recalled to the starting eleven, partnering captain Victor Wanyama at the heart of midfield.
Harambee Stars Starting Eleven
3.Patrick Matasi,2.Joseph Okomu, 3. Abud Omar, 5.Mohamed Musa, 7.Masika Timbe, 8. Johanna Omolo, 12. Victor Mugubi(capt), 13. Erick Ouma, 14. Olunga Michael, 20. Philemon Otieno, 21. Dennis Odhiambo
1.Faruk Shikhalo, 4.Joash Onyango, 6. Bernard Ochieng, 9. John Avire, 10. Eric Omondi,11. Kahata Francis, 15. David Owino, 16. Paul Were, 17. Ismael Gonzales, 19.Juma Masoud, 22. Ovella Ochieng, 23. John Oyemba
Senegal Starting Eleven
16. Edouard Mendy,2. Saliou Ciss, 3.Kalidou Koulibaly,5.Idrisa Gueye, 8.Cheikhou Kouyate(Capt), 9.Niang Mbaye, 10. Sadio Mane, 14.Henri Saivet, 17. Papa Ndiaye, 18. Ismaila Sarr, 21. Lamine Gassama.