Harambee Starlets are through to the last round of the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) qualifier after a 1-0 win on aggregate over Uganda’s Crested Cranes.
Starlets’ lone goal at home on Wednesday, scored by defender Lilian Adera, carried the side to the second round, where they play Equatorial Guinea, following a barren draw in the return leg at Uganda’s StarTimes Staduim in Lugogo yesterday.
Heading into the match, coach David Ouma made three changes to the squad that did duty in Machakos, with Sheryl Angachi, Vivian Aquino and Mercy Achieng starting in place of Cheris Avilia, Cynthia Shilwatso and Essy Akida who did not travel with the squad due to school commitments.
Ouma’s side needed a draw of any nature to proceed and the defenders protected their lead earnestly with the forwards relentlessly searching for an away goal.
Their first chance at goal came in the 39th minute when Aquino came close to netting the opener but was denied by the crossbar. Three minutes later, diminutive forward Mwanahalima Adam tapped in what would have been Kenya’s second on aggregate but was ruled offside.
Starlets will now shift their focus to preparing for the herculean task of facing two-time Africa champions Equatorial Guinea in the second and final qualifying round of the 2018 AWCON edition which will be the tournament’s 13th.
If the FIFA rankings released in March are anything to go by, Kenya go into the two-leg round as the underdogs as their opponents are ranked 55th globally and fifth in Africa, while Starlets are 108th in the world and 15th continentally.
“We will not take risks with any team. We will take one match at a time and respect every opponent however weak they may look. We are ready for the task ahead and have emphasised on mental preparation,” said Ouma prior to meeting Uganda.
The seven winners of the second round qualifiers will qualify for the final tournament slated for November 17 to December 1, to join the hosts Ghana who qualified automatically. Winners of the semi-finals and the third place play-off will qualify for the World Cup.