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Gabon vs Kenya: Masoud Juma Scores but Denis Bouanga Leads Comeback in 2026 World Cup Qualifier
- Harambee stars suffered defeat in their first game of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers
- Gabon scored two second-half goals to complete the turnaround after Masoud Juma's opener
- Kenya will seek an instant reply when they play Seychelles on Monday, November 20
Kenya's national football team began its journey to qualify for the 2026 World Cup on a sour note, going 2-1 down to Gabon at the Stade Franceville on Thursday night.
An injury-ravaged Kenyan side flew to Franceville to play their first competitive game in over two years following the lifting of the ban by FIFA earlier this year.
Engin Firat was forced to field a changed side from his usual starting XI with fitness issues, keeping the likes of Daniel Anyembe, Joseph Okumu and Eric 'Marcelo' Ouma from the side.
Gabon vs Kenya first-half report
The hosts settled in quickly into the game by dominating proceedings from the word go with slick passing and causing problems for the Kenyan defence.
The game was punctuated by an injury to Kenya's goalkeeper, Patrick Matasi, who required treatment on three different occasions in the first half.
Denis Bouanga had the first chance of the game in the 13th minute when he dispossessed Amos Nondi after a corner kick. The Los Angeles FC forward darted into Kenya's box before drawing a save from Matasi at his anger post.
He was at it two minutes later when he floated a high ball into the area, which was claimed rather comfortably by Matasi.
Despite the Kenya Police goalkeeper being treated on multiple occasions, it was Gabon's goalkeeper, Junior Nubi, who was withdrawn just after the half-hour mark, with Ngoubi Demba taking his place.
Harambee Stars' first chance fell to skipper Michael Olunga, who, after a short run, skied his effort. The East African nation took the lead against the run of play after an Amon Nondi pass into the area wasn't dealt with by Demba in the Gabonese goal.
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Masoud Juma's goal vs Gabon
Masoud Juma, who was lurking just behind the goalkeeper, was left with the easiest of chances of heading into an empty goal.
Demba redeemed himself four minutes into first-half stoppage time, diving to his right to deny Olunga a chance to put Kenya two to the good.
Gabon started the second half with the same tempo they started the first half with as they sought to restore parity immediately. Head Coach Thierry Mouyouma withdrew Shavy Babicka, putting on David Sambissa.
Six minutes after the restart, Anthony Oyono had a glorious chance to draw Gabon back into the game, but Johnstone Omurwa's brilliant last-ditch tackle sent the ball out for a corner.
Omurwa then had a chance to double Kenya's lead on the other head but failed to direct his header past Demba from a Dennis Ng'anga freekick.
Denis Bouanga threat and Gabon's comeback
Omurwa's hot and cold evening continued after his attempt to head the ball back to Matasi was intercepted by Bouanga inside the area. The Gabon number 20 made no mistake, lifting the ball past the advancing Matasi to bring his side back level.
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In the 74th minute, Bouanga was involved once again but handled the ball as he sent a shot towards Matasi. Centre referee Mansour Mohammed showed him a yellow card - the second of the game for the Panthers.
Jim Allevinah almost put Gabon ahead six minutes from time, but Aboud Omar created well to clear the ball on the line with Matrasi well beaten.
Guelor Kanga, however, extinguished Kenya's hopes for a priceless draw from home with a ferocious strike from way out to complete the comeback for Gabon.
What next for Kenya?
Harambee Stars will fly to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to play Seychelles on Monday in their next game. The island country has no CAF-approved stadium and will play all its home games in foreign countries.
The other teams in that group include Ivory Coast, Burundi and Gambia.
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.