Harambee Stars breaks Congo’s hearts, Guinea Bissau qualify for AFCON

By alex wafula
Jun 05, 2021
  • Harambee Stars players celebrate Ayub Timbe's goal.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • David Owino heads in a shot during their match against Congo.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

Kenya’s Harambee Stars shattered Congo Brazzaville’s dreams of making it to the 2017 African Cup of Nations after beating them 2-1 at the Kasarani Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The result means Guinea Bissau who on Saturday evening defeated Zambia 3-2 in the other qualifier in Bissau are now through to the Cup of Nations as Group E winners with 10 points.

Zambia and Congo Brazzaville are both on six with one qualifier remaining while Kenya are bottom with four. The result eases pressure on Kenya coach Stanley Okumbi who picked up his first victory as head coach.

“I was not under any pressure, but I am glad that we have finally won. We played very well today and I hope this is a start of better things. We can’t say we were playing for nothing because we are low on FIFA ranking and this result will help us improve,” Okumbi said after the match.

Captain Victor Wanyama was elated as well with the victory.

“We were motivated today because we knew that the only way to redeem ourselves was to get three points. At least we don’t leave without a win in the group,”

Congo coach Pierre Lechantre was left fuming at the performance of his players and questioned their desire to play in the African Nations Cup.

“I am not happy with the result and how we played today. Kenya had nothing to lose in this match and they played with more purpose and determination than we did. We were too slow and we didn’t show that we want to be at AFCON. I am very disappointed,” a dejected Lechantre offered.

Fine performance

Harambee Stars put up one of the finest performances in recent times despite having to come from a goal down.

Okumbi handed debuts to Spanish based midfielder Ismail Athuman Gonzalez who was donning the Kenyan colors in an official friendly for the first time.

Gor’s wonder-kid Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma earned his first competitive senior team debut starting at left back and put up an equally scintillating performance.

Kenya found themselves trailing after 18 minutes through a contested penalty.

Congo danger-man Ferebory Dore went down after a tussle for the ball in the air with Gonzalez and the referee pointed straight to the spot.

Skipper Prince Oniangue stepped up to score.

The lead though lasted six minutes before as the Kenyans levelled through winger Ayub Timbe.

The Belgium-based player beat his marker for pace to pick out a Francis Kahata through pass before blasting past Cristofer Mafumbi in the Congo goal.

The goal added confidence on the Kenyan side with captain Victor Wanyama's shot from distance saved by Mafumbi.

Timbe came close to scoring a double a minute later after being sent through by Eric Johannah but Mafumbi was alert.

In this match, Congo were mostly using cross balls to attack and Kenya had difficulty in dealing with them.

In the 38th minute, Dore’s effort after rising to connect a Delvin N’Dinga freekick went against the bar with the Kenyan backline failing to match his height and strength.

In the second half, Okumbi strengthened the midfield bringing in Anthony Akumu for Gonzalez.

Olunga impressses 

The midfielder who turns out for Spanish side Las Palmas had a mixed day on debut.

He sent in challenges late severally and his passing wasn’t as crisp as he did against Sudan in last week’s friendly.

It was a similar start for the second half as Kenya presse high up the field and tried to use spaces and pace to open up the Congo Brazzaville defense.

Olunga who was a menace all afternoon with his pace and height came close to getting his name on the score-sheet on the hour mark, but keeper Mafumbi came off his line faster to pick up a through ball from Wanyama.

But Kenya had the goal in the 65th minute, Johannah lifting the ball over an advancing Mafumbi after racing to pick up Mafumbi’s long ball.

Kenya had even more chances with Olunga’s point blank header saved by the keeper while from a counter, Timbe blasted the ball wide with Olunga screaming for the ball inside the six yard box.

Congo pressed high throwing everything in attack and dumping all the balls in the Kenyan box, but nothing was forthcoming.

Substitute Jordan Masengo forced Boniface Oluoch into a save in the 88th minute from a half volley inside the box.

Heading into the final round of matches in September, Kenya travels away to Zambia. They could finish second by beating Zambia if Guinea Bissau wins in Brazzaville.

Line ups

Kenya

Starting XI: Boniface Oluoch, Musa Mohammed, David Owino, Brian Mandela, Eric Ouma, Victor Wanyama, Ismail Gonzalez (55' Anthony Akumu), Eric Johanna (73' Ali Abondo), Francis Kahata, Michael Olunga, Ayub Timbe (85' Paul Were)

Unused subs: David Okello (GK), Eugene Asike, Jesse Were, Aboud Omar

Congo Brazzaville

Christopher Mafoumbi, Prince Oniangue (65' Massenga Jordan), Francis Nganga,(Bouka Moutu 50') Marvin Boubry, Lepicie Mael, Mercil Ndockyt, Delvin Ndinga, Dore Ferebory, (Ibara Vinny75') Nguessi Ondamaf, Clevin Dikamona, Thievy Bifouma.

Unused Subs: Ndzila Pavelh, Igor Nganga, Malonga Dominique, Chris Malonga.