'Disgraceful performance': Harambee Stars players slam home defeat to Zambia

By alex wafula
Sep 06, 2021
  • Harambee Stars Michael Olunga beats Zambia's Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene Arena to score the first goal of the match at the Nyayo National Stadium.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Harambee Stars David Owino against Zambia's Stoppilla Sunzu.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Zambia players celebrate after levelling the scores against Kenya.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

Goalkeeper Arnold Origi possibly summed it best: “It was a disgraceful performance!”. Harambee Stars lost their second 2017 African Cup of Nations qualification match against Zambia, going down 2-1 on Sunday at the Nyayo National Stadium.

Michael Olunga had given Kenya an early lead but Zambia fought back with goals from Winston Kalengo and Collins Mbesuma winning all three points.

Stars put up a lethargic performance after a 15-minute show of brilliance and they ended up giving up a victory that was already on the horizon for a rare full capacity Nyayo National Stadium.

In the recent past, owing to their string of losses, draws, Harambee Stars has struggled to attract crowds at the estimated 30,000 capacity stadium but there seemed to be a renewed hope that the Stars were shining again.

Thousands of fans who had thronged the stadium went back home disappointed again, and it will be no big surprise if the international friendly pitting Stars and Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday is played in a near empty stadium.

“We have let the fans down. They came here expecting that we will give them a good reward but we have lost. We played badly and if we play that way again we will not qualify for the African cup of nations. We played badly as a team, individual errors in defense and that is why we lost,” skipper Victor Wanyama said after the match.

Origi added: “This is not a match we should have lost. We deserve all the criticism that will come our way because we put up a disgraceful performance."

The shortlived lead

The exit of Paul Were was almost like a signal for all hell to break loose for the national team.

Were who has recently signed with Greece Super League side FC Kaloni hobbled off after 27 minutes clutching on his groin.

The winger who has not had good pre-season training having left South African side Amazulu went down after making a run on the wings signaling the bench that he had seen enough of the match.

Alongside Ayub Timbe, the former Tusker and AFC Leopards speed man had caused all sorts of problems for the Zambian full backs. Were’s third minute pass on the wing to Dennis Oliech was the first effort on goals Stars had.

He released Dennis Oliech who put up his trademark sprint to get to the ball on the byline but could not bring in a fruitful cross with Kennedy Mweene picking up.

The goal the team had yearned for in the opening minutes came when Olunga scored his first senior national team goal in the 13th minute with a loop over Mweene after taking advantage of defensive miscommunication to send the whole stadium into frenzy.

Just before the goal, Olunga had tested his boots with a shot from the edge of the box that went over.

Costly defense blunder

But the Zambians coached by George Lwandamina side did not panic even after conceding early and passed the ball around with ease, the burly Mbesuma being the chief creator for them, using his body to win balls and spread them across.

They were using their skipper Renford Kalaba in most of their attacks, but the TP Mazembe forward found his match in right back David ‘Calabar’ Owino who gave him no room to bring in the balls.

Origi pulled off a superb double save in the 23rd minute, first stopping Chisamba Lungu’s effort from the right Jack Chirwa’s point blank rebound also being parried away by the keeper.

But Chipolopolo grabbed the equalizer just as Noah Wafula stepped into the pitch to replace Were.

Mbesuma flicked the ball onto Kalengo who had time and space to control the ball with his chest and shoot into Origi’s top left corner with the Stars defense left dazed.

Mbesuma got the reward after a hard working afternoon again after some defensive lapse in the Kenyan backline with a 43rd minute goal that turned Nyayo Stadium into pin drop silence.

The burly forward buried the ball into Origi’s near post from a quickly taken throwing after Lawrence Olum had missed a clearance.

At the start of the second half, Kenya sought to level early, Olunga rising well to head past Mweene from Timbe's corner but Chirwa was on the goal line to clear.

Time wasting tricks? 

This was seemingly the only chance Kenya had in the second half, the Zambians engaged in dirty time wasting tricks, falling down even without contact much to the chagrin of Kenyan fans who at one point threw projectiles into the pitch.

Oliech who had hoped to use the rare opportunity to patch up his relationship with Kenyan fans after a rather blurry recent past was withdrawn for Allan Wanga after 65 minutes.

Oliech left without having a shot on target in the entire match despite being laden with the burden of hunting for goals.

“We still have some hope. We can go to Guinea Bissau and get a result and also do it here at home. There are positives to pick from here and we will not be broken hearted,” Bobby Williamson, the Harambee Stars coach said after the match.

His opposite number e Lwandamina said: “We played very well today and this is a great victory as we look to go into the African Nations Cup. The boys enjoyed themselves and passed the ball well and the experience we had also helped us."

With the World Cup qualifier away to Mauritania coming up in early October, Williamson has the plate full on what to change if Stars are to shine again. Stars drew 1-1 with Congo in their opening game of the qualifier.

Collated results

Saturday: Botswana 1 Burkina Faso 0, Comoros 0 Uganda 1, Sao Tome & Principe 0 Morocco 3, Liberia 1 Tunisia 0, Guinea Bissau 2 Congo 4, South Sudan 1 Equatorial Guinea 0, Gabon 4 Sudan 0, Mauritania 3  South Africa 1, Seychelles 1 Ethiopia 1, Namibia v Senegal, Burundi 2 Niger 0, Rwanda 0 Ghana 1, Tanzania 0 Nigeria 0, Namibia 0 Senegal 2.

Sunday: Mauritius 1 Mozambique 0, Madagascar 0 Angola 0, Kenya 1 Zambia 2, Lesotho 1 Algeria 3, Swaziland 2 Malawi 2, Zimbabwe 1 Guinea 1, Central Africa Republic 2 DR Congo 0, Chad 1 Egypt 5, Benin 1 Mali 1, Gambia 0 Cameroon 1, Libya 1 Cape Verde 2, Sierra Leone 0 Ivory Coast 0.