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Russia vs Kenya: Anthony Akumu, Masoud Juma Strike As Harambee Stars Hold 2018 World Cup Hosts
- Harambee Stars put on a brilliant display to draw with Russia on October 16
- Russia are ranked 39th by FIFA despite a long-term ban that has been in place since the Ukraine invasion
- Captain Michael Olunga had an off day, with Anthony Akumu and Masoud Juma providing the goods
Kenya's national football team, Harambee Stars, played out to a two-all draw with Russia in an international friendly match at the Titanic Sports Complex in Turkey on October 16.
Anthony Akumu and Masoud Juma were on target for the national side in what is the last game before they begin their 2026 World Cup qualifiers next month. Kenya was so close to notching a historic win, only for Russia to bag an equaliser in the 89th minute.
Head Coach Engin Firat named a largely unchanged starting XI - opting to go with the familiar names he has been using. Fresh from a positive start to the Kenya Premier League season, Gor Mahia's Rooney Onyango was handed his international debut, but the defender was deployed as a winger, with Amos Nondi taking up the right-back position in Daniel Anyembe's absence.
Russia started the game the better of the two sides, with the pressure finally paying off in the 8th minute. Joseph Okumu's pass was intercepted by Maksim Mukhin, who found Alexander Sobolev inside the area.
The Spartak Moscow forward made no mistake, finding the bottom corner of Bryne Odhiambo's goal to give Russia the lead. Odhiambo appeared to pick up an injury in the aftermath of the goal, forcing Firat into an early substitution.
The KCB goalkeeper was replaced by Patrick Matasi.
Antony Akumu's goal
Antony Akumu then piled pressure on the Russia defence, forcing a turnover in possession before finding Michael Olunga. Olunga fluffed his shot, but the ball fell back kindly to Akumu, who drew Kenya level in the 16th minute.
Russia were also forced into a first-half substitution after Daniil Formin was forced off in the 28th minute after a crunching tackle by Richard Odada. Daler Kuzyaev took his place.
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Harambee Stars dominated proceedings, exhibiting a high level of composure with their intricate passes. Masoud Juma capitalised on lax defending to power Kenya in front in the 36th minute. The striker was in an offside position but received the ball from a Russian player, making the goal valid.
Olunga vs Russia
Olunga's bad day in office continued after he missed a decent one-on-one chance to widen Kenya's lead a minute from halftime. The Al Duhail striker similarly failed to convert another chance after the break after Akumu had threaded a perfect through ball to him. His woes were compounded later on when he received a yellow card for dissent.
Kuzyaev drew a top save from Matasi as Valery Karpin's side ramped up the pressure in search of an equaliser. Firat responded by withdrawing Juma, bringing on Ayub Timbe on the hour mark. Kaprin, on the other hand, made a triple substitution.
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Matasi made another brilliant stop in the 78th minute, parrying a ferocious shot away to maintain Kenya's lead.
Firat made two substitutions in the 86th minute, withdrawing Onyango and Kenneth Muguna and bringing on Daniel Sakari and Brian 'Niang' Mandela.
Russia's late goal
Barely seconds after making those changes, Ivan Oblyakov sunk Kenyans' hearts, finishing off a cross from Alexander Silyanov in the 89th minute to get the draw for Russia.
Despite the last-minute heartbreak, Harambee Stars will take another positive performance from a nation superior to them in terms of rankings heading to the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. Stars have lost to Iran beat Qatar, among other friendly games.
Firat's men will begin their journey to the 2026 World Cup with two away fixtures against Gabon and Seychelles next month.
Kenyan celebration on EAFC 24
Sports Brief has also reported that a goal celebration inspired by Kenyan international Sven Yidah has made its way to the popular video game EAFC 24.
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The latest edition of the game, formerly known as FIFA, was released on September 29 with a number of upgrades and additions to enhance the user experience.
One interesting new addition is the HyperMotion technology that aims to increase the authenticity of football gameplay.