Harambee Stars draw with Congo in AFCON qualifier

By alex wafula
Jun 15, 2021
  • Michael Olunga was Kenya's lone striker against Congo in Brazzaville. Harambe Stars now turn their attention to CHAN where they play Ethiopia next weekend. (SNA File Photo).

A point away from home is always considered positive, and for Harambee Stars, the difference is not much.

The Kenyan lads played to a one-all draw with Congo at the Marien Ngouabi Stadium in Owando City, Congo Brazzaville, in the second Group E match of the 2017 African Cup of Nations Qualifiers.

On Saturday, Zambia and Guinnea Bissau played to a barren draw, a result that means all the four teams in Group E remain even ahead of the second round of group matches in September.

It was a result Bobby Williamson and his technical bench members would be proud of and have plenty to work to do before playing Zambia’s Chipolopolo in the second group match in Nairobi.

First, goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch gave Kenyan fans nervous moments with his indecisiveness. The midfield did not sparkle. Gor Mahia’s Collins Okoth Gattuso anchored the midfield in front of the back four while skipper Victor Wanyama played a bit more infront.

The 2012/2013 famous AFC Leopards partnership of Noah Wafula, Allan Wanga and Paul Were again came into being with Michael Olunga playing the lone man upfront.

The hosts knocked on Oluoch’s doors very early in the game, Sydney Nganze hitting the side netting in the fourth minute while Ferebory Dore had a header go just over inside the box a minute later with keeper Oluoch not doing well when he went off his line to collect the cross-balls.

But against the run of play, Paul Were opened the scores with a wonderful effort from the left after using his pace and power to move past his marker and beat Christopher Mafoumbi in the Congo goal.

Missed a wonderful chance

This had come just less than two minutes after Olunga had missed a wonderful chance, less than three yards out of goal from Wafula’s low cross that evaded the entire defense and the keeper as well. After Were’s great opener Olunga had another chance, this time curling his effort inches wide of Mafoumbi’s goal after shaking off his marker.

In the 17th minute, Congo came close but Carof Bakoua’s header went wide. Oluoch had come off his line but hesitated in picking up a cross ball, allowing the central defender to rise high but luckily his header was wide.

On the opposite end, Harambee Stars were not shy to run their hosts rugged and Were once again produced a moment of brilliance, taking on three defenders before laying the ball to Wanga who unfortunately chipped the ball over with the Congo defender advancing.

Captain Victor Wanyama came close with an overhead kick in the 22nd minute after Wafula had knocked on the ball for him from Wafula’s corner.

But the hosts drew level 10 minutes from half time when Saleh handled inside the box, Oniangue hitting it hard and low past Oluoch who had gone the right way .

Congo came back for the final 45 with an intention to win the game and came close in the 59th minute. Boniface Oluoch came out almost 25 yards out to head the ball out, only landing the ball on Dore’s feet with the lanky CFR Cluj attacker aiming goal-wards but the impressive David Ochieng was well placed to calmly control the ball and play it to safety.

Coach Bobby Williamson did not seem interested in defending the single point and with 20 minutes left, he introduced two pacy wingers in Ayub Timbe and Kevin Kimani for Noah Wafula and goal scorer Were.

Similar mistake

Eight minutes from time, Oluoch made another similar mistake of getting off his line in a bid to defend but again he was lucky as Dore’s effort hit the side netting. It was a poor decision from Oluoch who went on for a striker with Ochieng already closing down the Congolese attacker.

Seeing only too well that Congo were over and over increasing their attack, Williamson had had enough of attacking play and he pulled off Wanga who limped off rather weirdly, suggesting he had struggled with a hamstring.

In came Teddy Akumu, a sub that would see three holding midfielders screen the back four to protect the single point. Timbe had a last ditch effort in the 93rd minute, but his powerful shot was parried away by Mafoumbi in the Congo goal.

Williamson now shifts his attention to the CHAN Qualifiers, with the squad expected to travel to Addis Ababa this weekend to face off with the Walya Antelopes in the first round of the qualifiers.

The foreign based quota will earn their much deserved rest while the local lads will have no time to rest as they look forward to charging the Walyas.

Full Weekend AFCON Qualifying results;

Guinea 1 Swaziland 2, Morocco 1 Libya 0, Tunisia 8 Djibouti 1, Malawi 1 Zimbabwe 2, Malawi 1 Zimbabwe 2, Zambia 0 Guinea Bissau 0, Angola 4 Central Africa Republic 0, Nigeria 2 Chad 0, Cape Verde Islands 7 Sao Tomé and Príncipe 1, Uganda 2 Botswana 0, South Africa 0 Gambia 0, Senegal 3 Burundi 1, Burkina Faso 2 Comoros 0, Mali 2 South Sudan 0, Algeria 4 Seychelles 0, Cameroon 1 Mauritania 0, Congo 1 Kenya 1, Egypt 3 Tanzania 0, Sudan 1 Sierra Leone 0, Ghana 7 Mauritius 1, Togo 2 Liberia 1, Equitorial Guinea 1 Benin 1, Niger 1 Namibia 0, DR Congo 2 Madagascar 1, Mozambique 0 Rwanda 1, Ethiopia 2 Lesotho 1,