Neddy Atieno hits three past Mozambique in Cosafa Cup opener

By alex wafula
Sep 14, 2021
  • Neddy Atieno in a past match against Cameroon. She scored three goals against Mozambique in the opening Cosafa Cup match in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. (SNA. File Photo)

Three goals in the final six minutes of the game saw Harambee Starlets wade off a resistant Mozambique before winning 5-2, starting their COSAFA Women’s Championship campaign with a bang at the Luveve Stadium in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Neddy Atieno scored a hatrick with Mwanahalima Adam and Phoebe Owiti adding the other two.

This was new coach Richard Kanyi’s first competitive game. He replaced  David Ouma who led the team to last year’s African Women’s Cup of Nations.

“It was tough at the beginning but in the second half when we changed strategy by bringing in players with speed, things worked out well for us. I am happy that we started the tournament with a win. It will boost our confidence going into the other matches,” Kanyi said.

Kanyi fielded a different team with regular captain Mary Kinuthia and goal-poacher Esse Akida both missing out of the tournament.

Midfielder Cherish Avilia started on the bench with Kanyi handing debuts to keeper Jenipher Adhiambo, Juliet Auma, Carolyne Musungu and Lucy Mukhwana.

Harambee Starlets had much of the possession in the opening 20 minutes of the game with Mercy Achieng hitting the crossbar while Atieno twice had shots go wide.

Mozambique broke the deadlock

But it was Mozambique who broke the deadlock through striker Leila Lucia from a superb superb freekick into the top right corner.

Atieno drew level in the 24th minute when she outmuscled her markers inside the box before shooting low and hard on the half turn.

Harambee Starlets who were comfortable on the ball, built up play but a disjointed unit in the final third meant they couldn’t create more scoring chances.

In the second half, they were stunned with Mozambique retaking the lead, Lucia completing her brace after dribbling to the edge of the box before unleashing a looping shot that caught the Kenyan keeper flat footed.

But the never say die attitude of the Kenyan girls ensured they remained in contention. Atieno struck her second of the evening in the 56th minute with a superb diving header after being picked out by a well weighted cross from skipper Wendy Achieng.

Lucia was the most lively of the Mozambique players, but Dorcas Shikobe diligently marked her out to ensure her danger was neutralized.

Kanyi made a change bringing off debutant Mukhwana for Janet Bundi while Phoebe Owiti came on for Musungu.

In the 80th minute, Bundi had a chance after out-stepping her marker, but her eventual shot went over.

A minute later, Atieno had a chance after finding shooting space on the right, but the effort went wide.

Adam struck from close range

The flurry of goals began in the 84th minute when Adam struck from close range after Owiti’s shot bumped off the back of a Mozambique defender.

Atieno then completed her hatrick in sublime fashion in the 87th minute by chesting another of Wendy Achieng’s deliveries before striking home with her weaker left foot.

Owiti put the icing on the cake at the stroke of 90 minutes, striking home straight from a freekick after Adam had been axed on the left.

The win saw Harambee Starlets move joint top of the standings with Lesotho who beat Mauritius 3-0.

Their next match will be on Saturday against Mauritius at the same venue and a win will see them earn a semi-final berth.

In the Kenya Premier League, Gor Mahia opened a nine-point lead at the top after beating Chemelil Sugar 3-0.