Harambee Stars are the 2017 Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Senior Challenge Cup champions. The hosts who last won the title in 2013 when they also hosted it, laboured to beat Zanzibar 3-2 on post-match penalties after a thrilling 2-2 draw in regular and extra time in a packed Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos yesterday.
Posta Rangers goalkeeper Patrick Matasi became the unlikely hero after he blocked three penalties to give Kenya a 3-2 shoot-out victory. Stars were huge favourites going into the match and took little time to assert their superiority.
Sustained pressure on Zanzibar defence in early minutes yielded a goal scoring opportunity. Hassan Makame hacked Whyvonne Isuza 28 metres outside their goal and Kariobangi Sharks winger Ovela Ochieng curled a beautiful free kick into the net from the resultant foul.
Zanzibar struggled to find their foot after conceding the early goal allowing Stars to control the proceedings in the early minutes. Isuza proved a handful for Zanzibar with his incising runs with George Odhiambo failing to create chances despite his sensational dribbles past the Zanzibar defense.
Zanzibar’s failed to create any meaningful chances in the first half, as Matasi seemed to be on holiday. The visitors lost Makame to injury 10 minutes into second half and Stars also lost striker Kepha Aswani shortly afterwards under similar circumstance, with his place being taken by Masud Juma.
Kenya’s sole intent in the second period was to close out the game and coach Paul Put pulled off his flying wingers George Odhiambo and goal scorer Ochieng for Sanuel Onyango and defensive-minded Ernest Wendo respectively.
Zanzibar’s confidence built as Kenya soaked the pressure and their tenacity paid off in the 87th minute when Wendo mistimed his tackle on Haji Mwinyi allowing him into the danger zone where he beat Isuza and Dennis Sikhayi before crossing the ball into the box for Issa Haidara to tap in from close range and send the game to extra time.
Masud Juma who scored for Kenya in the opening match collected a horrendous clearance from Zanzibar goalkeeper Mohamed Abdurahman seven minutes into the first half of extra time, out paced the defenders to put Stars in front again.
The celebrations were still on when Zanzibar Heroes pulled level again through Khamis. Abdalla Rashid floated a dangerous cross into the box and Kenyan skipper Musa Mohammed’s fluffed clearance served to set up Haidara for his second. Both sides tried in vain to get a third goal forcing the tie to post match shoot-outs.