National Under-23 football team Emerging Stars put one foot in the second round of the 2020 Olympics qualifier after a resounding 5-0 win over Mauritius in the first leg clash at Kasarani Stadium yesterday.
Goals by Johnstone Omurwa, James Mazembe, Pistone Mutamaba, Sydney Lokole and Joseph Okumu were enough for Kenya to go into the return match in Port Louis with settled nerves as Mauritius will need an almost impossible 6-0 win to advance.
Kenya would have secured a bigger victory were it not for telling saves from goalkeeper Alexandre Figaro.
The determination and zeal by Stars were noticeable from the onset as they were the first to have a sniff at goal in the seventh minute when Ovella Ochieng, who was a thorn in the flesh of the visitors on the wing.
An inviting cross from overlapping defender Yusuf Mainge found Ochieng who left Mauritius defenders Vincent Emmanuel and Jeab Jacques Patate for dead but the Sweden-based enterprising winger took time to pull the trigger despite goalkeeper Figaro being displaced.
But Kenya was not to be denied three minutes later as Omurwa dutifully placed his header beyond the reach of Figaro following a corner floated by Mainge.
On the other end, Mauritius made half-hearted attempts at Kenya’s goal with the closest coming off the feet of Saramandif Kengy in the 14th minute when he skied his effort after a close challenge from David Owino and Teddy Osok.
In the 29th minute, Osok who was comfortable going forward to assist in attacks did well to put Mazembe through with the Kariobangi Sharks striker drilling the second goal through a header.
Two more attacks by Ibrahim and Mutamba in quick succession were contained by an otherwise stubborn Mauritius defence in the first stanza though it appeared that it was just a matter of when the visitor’s defence would further crack from the flurry of attacks.
The early second half saw Shambi saw his effort before Mutamba made his presence felt in Kenya’s attack with the third goal in the 50th minute with a powerful header off Shambi’s cross.
Second half substitute Lokole would later score the fourth goal but was guilty of later missing a sitter in a one-on-one situation with Figaro.
Kenya coach Sebastien Migne, who has been assisting Francis Kimanzi in the preparations of the team, could not hide his joy after the huge win.
”Obviously, the win motivates the players given most are playing for the national team for the first time. We hope to complete the job in Port Louis,” said Migne.
His Mauritian counterpart Sakoor Soodhaa conceded defeat, saying the fitness levels of his players were wanting to be given that he has only been with the team for five months.