Harambee Stars needed Whyvonne Isuza’s goal in the sixth minute of extra time to squeeze through to the final of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup at the expense of Burundi in a tense semi-final clash at Moi Stadium in Kisumu yesterday.
Following the laboured victory, Stars will square it out in the final with the winner of today’s second semi-final between Uganda Cranes and the Zanzibar Heroes today. The Kenyans weathered heavy storm and a frustrating afternoon from the otherwise wasteful Burundi’s Intamba (Swallows) with the normal time ending goalless, which prompted the extension of play to break the stalemate.
In fact, Burundi were technically superior in the highly physical match but were guilty of squandering open scoring chances mainly from Shaban Hussein and Laudit Mavugo.
Dictating pace with crisp passes and exhibiting fluidity in midfield, Burundi would have been a goal up in the sixth minute when Shaban, who was a thorn to Kenya’s defence, rounded off Jockins Atudo and Musa Mohammed but shot feebly into the hands of goalkeeper Patrick Matasi.
Again, in the 13th minute, Burundi prodded Kenya defence from the middle, this time Fiston Abdul being denied by Matasi who had a great game. Harambee Stars relied on counter-attacks which almost bore fruit when George “Blackberry’ Odhiambo disentangled himself from his markers and teed up Ovellah Ochieng whose run towards the Burundi box was halted by Tresor Ndikumana.
With Burundi showing hunger for goals, Shassir Nahimana thought he would give Intamba the opener on the half hour mark but quick reflexes by Matasi put Kenya into the game.
Vincent Oburu then tested Burundi goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana three minutes to half time before Kenya came back the strongest of the two after the breather.
Kenya coach Paul Put pulled out injured captain Musa Mohammed for Duncan Otieno and the results were almost instant, Ovellah coming close again after outwitting David Nsimirimana in a one-on-one encounter.
By the time the mandatory 30 additional minutes were applied to break the deadlock, Burundi were showing signs of fatigue, giving leeway to Isuza to turn Intamba’s defence inside out to net the winning goal for Kenya.
Meanwhile, Zanzibar have suffered a blow ahead of their game against Uganda as they will miss three key players including Mwinyi Haji Ngwali who is on suspension and striker Kassim Suleiman and midfielder Amour Suleiman both who are nursing injurie