Gor Mahia custodian Boniface Oluoch was between the sticks when Harambee stars started their 2019 Africa Nations cup campaign on a sour note, going down 2-1 to Sierra Leone. Musa Mohamed was deployed at right back. Also in action were former Kogalo players David Owino Calabar, Eric Ouma Marcelo, Anthony Akumu and Michael Olunga.
Additional Reporting from the Nation
Kenya began her bid for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on a sour note as they lost 2-1 to Sierra Leone on Saturday evening in a highly tempered match at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown.
Julius Wuobay and captain Umaru Bangoura scored a goal in each half for Sierra Leone, and Michael Olunga provided the only response for Kenya with a lovely goal taken free kick in the 75th minute.
In the 41st minute, Stars suffered a major setback when South Africa-based defender Brian “Niang” Mandela received a straight red card for a tackle on striker Alhassan Kamara, who was through on goal.
Mandela slid against a goal-bound Kamara in an attempt to dispossess him, but missed the ball and brought him down and prompting a red card from Nigerian referee Ferdinand Udoh – who was rounded up by Stars players at full time as they aired their displeasure at the way he had controlled proceedings.
Stars struggled to finish that first half with ten men, but coach Stanley Okumbi effected changes immediately after the breather to bring in defender David “Cheche” Ochieng in place of Kariobangi Sharks striker Masoud Juma, who was making his debut.
More trouble befell Kenya in the 68th minute as left back Eric “Marcelo” Ouma brought down John Kamara inside the box, thereby gifting the hosts a penalty.
As any captain would do, Bangoura stepped forward to take the penalty, placed the ball high to Boniface Oluoch’s left side to double their advantage.
Kenya’s only response in the match came from China-based striker Michel Olunga superbly placed the ball past a stranded Sierra Leone wall and goalkeeper from a free-kick just on the edge of the box.
Winger Ayub Timbe, also based in China, was hacked down before the referee aarded the free-kick.
Olunga had earlier on squandered a chance for Kenya to draw Kenya level in the first half, after latching onto a rebound inside six yards, but could only hit the cross bar when scoring was easier.
Coach Stanley Okumbi had made only two changes in his regular starting 11, but retained his preferred midfield quarter of Victor Wanyama, Ayub Timbe, Anthony Akumu and Eric Johanna.
In the absence of injured Zesco United striker Jesse Were, Okumbi chose to hand Juma his debut in the match, and he was to partner Olunga up front.
Musa Mohammed, who has been lurking in the shadows in such high profile games, also returned to the starting line-up at the right back position.
Sierra Leone began the match on a high, making dangerous runs and succeeding in destabilising the Stars backline on several occasions.
Stars however had two clear cut chances in that period, but Olunga and Juma were not clinical enough to convert the opportunities into goals.
Juma came with Stars’ first real chance in the 17th minute when he was left with the goalkeeper to beat, but he only fluffed his lines with the goal mouth gaping.
The defeat left Stars players, who were forced to play for about 50 minutes one-man less, with a bitter taste at full time.
1 Bonface Oluoch, 2 Musa Mohammed, 3 Erick Ouma, 15 David Owino, 5 Brian Mandela (red card 41min), 12 Victor Wanyama, 6 Anthony Akumu, 10 Erick Johanna (Onyango 66′), 7 Ayub Timbe (Waruru 90′), 9 Masoud Juma (Ochieng 46′), 14 Michael Olunga
18 Patrick Matasi, 20 Simon Mbugua, 19 Joseph Okumu, 4 David Ochieng, 8 Samuel Onyango, 11 Stephen Waruru, 17 Ernest Wendo