Harambee Starlets to play Zimbabwe in COSAFA Semi-Final

By alex wafula
Sep 18, 2017
  • Cheris Avilia of Kenya is challenged by Nokuhula Mdluli of Swaziland during the 2017 COSAFA Women's Championship match. (Photo Courtesy)

Harambee Stars, the national women football team will play Zimbabwe in the semi-final of the COSAFA Women’s Championship on Thursday at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.

They beat Swaziland by a solitary goal on Monday evening to progress to the last four as the only unbeaten team.

Zimbabwe squeezed in as the best loser. They needed Kenya to do them a favor by ensuring Swaziland did not pick maximum points.

A draw would have seen Swaziland go to five points, same as Zimbabwe, but wouldn’t have been enough because the hosts had a better goal difference.

Richard Kanyi, the Harambee Starlets coach is expecting a tough tie from the hosts on Thursday but remains confident he can guide the team to the final in their debut in the tournament.

“I have watched them (Zimbabwe) play and they are a good team. On top of that, they will have the home advantage because they will be pushed by the home fans. I expect my girls to be mentally strong to counter that,” Kanyi said after his team beat Swaziland.

Midfielder Mercy Achieng hit the winner in the 90th minute with an ice cool chip with the game seemingly headed for a draw.

Swaziland had to play almost half an hour of the match with 10 players after midfielder Celine Nkambule was sent off for a high boot on Kenya’s Pauline Musungu.

Coming into the tie, Harambee Starlets were already qualified because none of the second-placed teams had six points. They could also have gone through as best losers. 

Kanyi made eight changes to the team by resting his star players including top scorer Neddy Atieno, strike partner Mwanahalima Adam and defensive kingpin Dorcas Shikobe.

Left back Wendy Achieng was serving a one match suspension after picking two consecutive yellow cards.

Pedestrian pace

It was a pedestrian pace to the game with the Kenyans just passing the ball around as if they were in a training session.

Swaziland, needing a win at all costs never showed any urgency. The Southern Africans managed to get behind the Kenyan defense in the 38th minute when Singa Martins blistered into the box, but Juliet Auma made a well timed tackle to deny her.

Kenya upped the rhythm in the second half and in the 51st minute, Janet Bundi sent Phoebe Awiti through on goal but she could not beat Swaziland keeper Sokohlule Sibandze one on one.

The Swazi keeper had a superb game and was later player of the match.

Swaziland did not slow down after Nkambule’s red card. They kept pounding the Kenyan half but still the right combination to get a goal was missing.

Keeper Sibandze kept Swaziland in the game and in the 67th minute made another superb stop to deny Janet Bundi’s shot from the right.

Five minutes later, the shot stopper did well again to save one on one from Mwanahalima Adam who had just come on for Bundi.

Harambee Starlets thought they had gotten into the lead in the 75th minute when Achieng’s rattling effort after a well worked move came off the underside of the bar, but despite the ball crossing the line, the ref waved play on.

Achieng was denied by Sibandze three minutes later with a curling effort after sidestepping her marker inside the box.

But there was no stopping her at the stroke of 90 minutes when another well worked move released her through on goal and citing Sibandze off her line chipped the ball delightfully over her.

The result sees Kanyi achieve her minimum target which was to get to the semi-final and will now put their energy to make it to the final.