Resilient Harambee Stars survive Pharaohs onslaught in entertaining 1-1 draw

Resilient Harambee Stars survive Pharaohs onslaught in entertaining 1-1 draw

Rene Otinga

- Harambee Stars showed great fighting spirit to claw a draw in a tough match

- Michael Olunga's 67th minute strike cancelled out Mahmoud Kahraba's opener

- Kenya face Togo in their next qualifier match on Monday, November 18

Harambee Stars placed their off-field drama aside for 90 minutes as they put up a superb performance to draw a point against an offensive Egypt side in their first match of the AFCON qualifiers.

Michael Olunga, who plays for Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol brought the Stars back in the game in the 67th minute after Mahmoud Kahraba had placed Egypt 1-0 up in the first half.

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The result , despite being a netural one, will be one which Francis Kimanzi will receive with a lot of gratitude as his side were far from their best.

Egypt were quickly off the blocks as Kenya had a slow start to the game with Aston Villa’s Mohamed Trezeguet Hassan firing his shot just wide off the mark from outside the 18-yard in the opening four minutes.

Kenya suffered early misfortune after Patrick Matasi picked up an injury as he looked to have pulled a muscle while taking a goal kick and had to be taken off with Ian Otieno from Red Arrows in Zambia entrusted with the gloves.

Trezeguet was proving to be a handful for the Harambee Stars backline as he again breached the defense in the 18th minute after a being feed with a neat through ball but his shot was easily gathered by Ian Otieno.

Harambee Stars had their best chance of the half in the 21st minute when Victor Wanyama passed the ball to Ayub Timbe on the halfway line as the Beijing Renhe winger produced a moment of brilliance tearing through the Egyptian defense but he was let down by his shot that was straight at Mohamed El Shenawy after a one on one.

Francis Kimanzi was again forced to turn to his bench at the stroke of the half-hour mark when Ayub Timbe was withdrawn with an injury as former Mathare United midfielder Cliff Nyakea came on in his place.

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Nyakeya was straight into the thick of things as he broke through on goal and tried to wrong-foot Mohamed Alaa who handled the ball and was shown a yellow card but Michael Olunga couldn’t capitalize on the free-kick just at the edge of the box as he fired the ball straight into the wall.

A lapse in concentration costed Kenya with just four minutes left on the clock till half as Eric Ouma’s calamitous back pass ricocheted to Mohamed Kahraba after Ian Otieno tried to clear the ball as the Aves midfielder tapped the ball into the gaping goal.

Kenya came out strong in the second half but had to wait till the 61st minute for the first chance when Lawerence Juma set Eric Johanna free down the left flank as he cut back the ball to Michael Olunga who fluffed his shot.

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Olunga was just getting warmed up as he finally had his name onto the scoresheet in the 67th minute when Terek Hamed played a horrendous back pass to Ahmed Fathy as Nyakeya slid to take the ball off him with the ball falling to Olunga whose first-time shot rippled the back of the net.

A real scare in the 82nd minute saw Egypt almost equalise as the ball was cleared off the line after the ball slipped fromgoalkeeper Ian Otieno’s hands

He did well to recover the ball only as far as Ahmed Sayed whose shot was blocked by Samuel Olwande with the Pharaohs burying their heads in hands at the missed opportunity.

In the other Group G match, Comoros stunned Togo 1-0 to go top of the pile after the first round of matches.

Kenya will face a wounded Togo in their second qualifier match on Monday in Nairobi.

Additional reporting by Kevin Omondi, correspondent

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