Harambee Stars scrapped through to the semi-finals of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup Championships after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Stars in their last Group ‘A’ preliminary match at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos yesterday.
Before the match, Kenya had been left on tenterhooks and needed an outright win after guest team Mediterranean Knights had beaten Zanzibar 1-0 to hand themselves a lifeline.
At Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega, Burundi’s Intamba Murugamba settled for a barren draw with the Bright Stars of South Sudan but still made it to the last four stage, Following the win, Harambee Stars booked a semi final date with Group B runners-up Intamba Murugamba who finished second in Group ‘B’ behind Uganda Cranes.
The other semi final will pit Group “A” winners Zanzibar against the Cranes. AFC Leopards midfield wonder Vincent Oburu scored the all important goal for Harambee Stars in the 19th minute after he was put through by the enterprising Ovellah Ochieng as Stars dictated pace for a lengthy period in the match.
Kenya displayed a spirited performance with Ovellah and defender Musa Mohammed and Dennis Shikhayi among stand-out performers. Kilimanjaro Stars also had their scoring chances, which were wasted by Himid Mao and Ibrahim Ajib.
In an early kick off match, the Mediterranean Knights of Libya edged Zanzibar Heroes 1-0 and were praying for Kenya to lose to Tanzania, which did not happen. Zanzibar proved gritty opponents to the Mediterranean Knights but the latter applied all the tricks in the book to score through Alharaish Zakaria in the first half.
The pendulum of the match swung from one end to the other before Zakaria pulled the trigger with a powerful left-footer from the 18-yard box.
Zanzibar will ultimately blame their defender Issa Dau for the goal they conceded after he gave acres of space to Libya’s Tubal to tee up Zakaria who had the easiest of chances to find the back of the net, leaving goalkeeper Mohammed Abdulrahman rooted to the ground.
The Mediterranean Knights had worked out a plan to silence Zanzibar more so in the second half when they occasionally mounted counter attacks while retreating back to their defence in numbers whenever Zanzibar made any meaningful threat. Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko and Machakos counterpart Alfred Mutua promised to donate personal Sh1 million each to be handed over to the team.
“I am happy with performance of our boys here in Machakos and will be happy to award personal donation of Sh1 million each to congratulate team for making us proud,” said Sonko. This is the second time Sonko is rewarding the team for exemplary performance. Additional reporting by David Ndolo.