Resilient Stars exorcise DR Congo’s Red Devils in Lubumbashi

By alex wafula
Oct 05, 2016
  • Harambee Stars edged out DR Congo in Lubumbashi to enhance their chances of climbing higher in the Fifa rankings. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Michael Olunga translated his superb form at club level with IF Djugardens into the national team, scoring the lone goal as Harambee Stars beat DR Congo’s Red Devils 1-0 in an international friendly match in Kinshasa on Tuesday night.

The win could give Harambee Stars a huge rise in the FIFA rankings as Congo is placed 51st globally.

Against a full strength Congolese side, Kenya showed efficient defending despite being denied the ball for most parts of the game. Newcastle’s Chancel Mbemba, Everton’s Yannick Bolasie, Ajjacio’s Remy Mulumba and the African Nations Championship (CHAN) winning members Ley Matampi, Jonathan Bolingi Mpangi and Joyce Lomalisa all played part in the game.

Kenya missed captain Victor Wanyama with defender David Owino being trusted with the armband. Las Palmas midfielder Ismail Gonzalez filled in Wanyama’s gap in the middle of the pack while the Returning Rama Salim joined a three-fold attack line that had Olunga and Jesse Were.

The hosts had a fiery start and came close to scoring in the first minute. Brian Mandela almost headed the ball into his own net from a Jordan Botaka cross after the Charlton Athletic man beat Kenya’s left back Aboud Omar.

Rama Salim had Kenya’s first chance in the 13th minute but his connection from an Olunga cross on the right went inches wide. Seven minutes later, he tried his luck with a skidding shot from long range which went wide.

Congo forced Kenya on the backfoot

Eric Johannah too tried his luck from distance, but his free-kick went straight into the keeper’s arms. Congo created many chances after forcing Kenya on the back foot with Botaka a constant menace on the left side of Kenya’s defense.

Were it not for Bolingi Mpangi’s wastefulness, the hosts would have been ahead by half time. The TP Mazembe player spurned two crucial chances 10 minutes apart, and it was substituted eight minutes to the break for Everton’s Bolasie.

Mpangi had his first effort in the 27th minute from a Botaka cross after a nasty nutmeg on Jesse Were but the forward headed wide.

On the half hour mark, he was sent through on goal by Mulumba, but could not get a strong boot on the ball under pressure from Mandela.

Skipper David Owino had put in a shift at the back, doing well to arrange his defense line and pushing into midfield to break up Congolese attacks.

Congo came close again a minute to the break but Firmin Mubele’s shot from the right hit the side-netting.

At the start of the second half, Ibenge made two changes, bringing in first choice keeper Matampi for Joel Kiassumbua while Lomalisa came on for Vital Nsimba.

In the 55th minute, Okumbi made his first change, bringing out Gonzalez for New York Cosmos man David Ochieng’ who slotted into midfield alongside Akumu.

Congo continued with their dominance and on the hour mark came close with Mubele misfiring again after being sent through by Jacques Maghoma.

Okumbi threw in his second dice, Paul Were coming on for Rama Salim. It didn’t take him long to assert himself into the game with his pace and in the 66th minute, played a huge role in Olunga’s goal.

Olunga scores from a rebound

The winger took on a daunting run on the left before unleashing a shot that hit the upright with Olunga picking the rebound and slotting into the net.

Searching for a goal, Ibenge threw in another change five minutes after going down, Dody Lukebakio coming on for Paul Jose Mpoku. The hosts continued pushing and Botaka continued his torment of Aboud Omar.

With quarter of an hour left, Botaka dribbled his way into the Kenya box before unleashing a stinger of a shot which Boniface Oluoch spilled, but the defense was well placed to clear.

Five minutes to the final whistle, Okumbi made his final change, handing Chemelil Sugar midfielder Victor Majid his national team debut coming in for Johannah, a change seeking to solidify the midfield.

Congo kept on pounding the Kenyan 18-yard area and came close again with three minutes left with Lukebakio curling a left-footed freekick inches above the bar.

They could do nothing they could do in the final minutes to change the score as the visitors shielded their backline well and held on for the win.

Congo’s Florent Ibenge will now have a full plate on his desk when he faces Libya in a World Cup qualifier against Libya on Saturday.