Sierra Leone slap Harambee Stars back to reality

By alex wafula
Jun 11, 2017
  • Harambee Stars started their campaign on a losing note to Sierra Leone. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Harambee Stars’ journey to the 2019 African Cup of Nations started on a false note with a 2-1 loss away to Sierra Leone in Freetown.

The team had to face the final 50 minutes of the game with 10 men after defender Brian Mandela was sent off for a tackle on Sierra Leone’s Alhassan Kamara in the 40th minute.

It was a harsh pull back to reality for the national side who were basking in the glory of a 10-match unbeaten run, their last loss being the 1-0 away result to Guinea Bissau last year.

Julius Wobay’s first half goal and Umaru Bangura’s second half penalty in the second half did the damage for Kenya.

Michael Olunga’s freekick quarter an hour to time did nothing more than change the statistics on the match sheet.

Despite taking time to settle into the match,Harambee Stars had the best of scoring opportunities before the hosts broke the deadlock.

Debutant Massoud Juma who had been thrown straight into the deep end on his first ever trip with the national team wasted a glorious 17th minute opportunity.

Olunga did well to win the ball on the right before slapping a low cross into the box finding the Kariobangi Sharks forward isolated inside the box. However, he failed to beat the Leone Stars keeper one on one.

For the missed opportunity, Kenya was punished four minutes on the turn. Wobay met a cut back of a cross from Kei Kamara on the left and he shot first time and despite Oluoch having a touch on the ball, it hit the inside of the upright before turning into the net.

Victor Wanyama came close to making an immediate response but his header hit the crossbar after rushing to meet a freekick from Eric Johannah.

The Leone Stars were using the wings as their major point of attack with Kei Kamara on the left and Wobay on the right using their pace well.

Kamara proved to be a handful for Stars right back Musa Mohammed a couple of times.

Two wingers

Kenya chose to play more centrally with the two wingers Ayub Timbe and Johannah playing more on the inside with Olunga and Massoud roving upfront.

In the 34th minute, Johannah had a chance from a freekick but sent it straight to the keeper. Two minutes later, two double open scoring chances again went begging.

Johannah took the ball on the left, cut into the box and picked out Wanyama whose shot was blocked by the keeper. Olunga picked up the rebound but instead of simply tapping into the net, went for strength hitting the crossbar and Sierra Leone clearing.

Bad turned to worse when Mandela saw red four minutes later, despite protests from the Kenyans.

In the second half, the heavy showers that hit the Siaka Stevens Stadium made play tougher with the pitch becoming increasingly slippery. Okumbi made a change necessitated by the red card, bringing in David Ochieng for Massoud.

Sierra Leone somehow found a way to maintain the tempo in the tough Equatorial conditions as they kicked off the final 45.

In the 56th minute, Alhassan came close to adding a second but slipped as he pulled the trigger when he met a cross from the right, the ball going wide.

Alfred Sanko came close in the 63rd minute but was denied by the post after slapping through a cross from Hassan Sessay.

Five minutes later, they were 2-0 up. Erick Marcello, in a bid to win the ball back after letting it bounce axed Kei Kamara inside the box. Skipper Bangura took responsibility and made it 2-0 with ease.

It was not the scenario Okumbi would wish for; 10 men and 2-0 down away from home.

Olunga gave Kenya some hope in the 75th minute when he wonderfully curled home a freekick from the edge of the box. But, despite the fight-back to get at least a draw by dumping all the balls in the box, nothing would give.

Harambee Stars now drop to the bottom of the table with Sierra Leone going top, pending Sunday’s match between Ghana and Ethiopia in Kumasi.

Sierra Leone starting XI: Morris Zombo, Hassan Milla Sesay, Umaru Bangura, David Simbo, Yeami Dunia, Medo Kamara, Alfred Sankoh, Kwamie, Gibrilla Wobay, Kei Kamara, Alhassan Kamara; Subs: Alhaji Dauda Conteh, Ibrahim Bangura, John Kamara, Khalifa Jabbie, Abdul Sesay, Michael Lahoud, Mohamed Buya Turay.

Harambee Stars starting XI: Boniface Oluoch, Musa Mohammed, Eric Ouma, David Owino, Brian Mandela, Victor Wanyama, Anthony Akumu, Eric Johanna (Samuel Onyango 65’), Ayub Timbe, Masoud Juma (David Ochieng 46’), Michael Olunga; Subs: Patrick Matasi, Simon Mbugua, Joseph Okumu, Stephen Waruru, Ernest Wendo

Select African Cup of Nations results; Sierra Leone 2 Kenya 1, Nigeria 0 South Africa 2, Tanzania 1 Lesotho 1, Zambia 0 Mozambique1, Sudan 1 Madagascar 3, Libya 5 Seychelles 1, Malawi 1 Comoros 0, Dr Congo 3 Congo Brazzaville 1, Burundi 3 South Sudan 0, Botswana 0 Mauritania 1.