Gor Mahia central defender Joash Onyango, who was sidelined from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations due to injuries, played a key role as Kenya’s Harambee Stars recorded an important away draw against Taifa Stars of Tanzania.
Additional Reporting from Citizen Sports
Harambee Stars forced a zealous Tanzania to a barren draw in the first leg of their CHAN 2020 qualifier, staged at the National Stadium Dar es Salaam on Sunday evening.
It was Tanzania who has more chances in the match, but Kenya had several open chances that would have changed the result with more clinical finishing.
The first of coach Sebastien Migne to operate with only local based players, Harambee Stars ensured a share of spoils against an experienced side whose 60 percent of the team has been playing for the country for over or near a decade.
Tanzania first came close in the third minute, when Azam FC’s Hassan Dilunga headed slightly over the bar with goalkeeper John Oyemba beaten, the Kenyan defense struggling to settle.
A miscalculation when clearing by Clifton Miheso almost gave Tanzania’s John Raphael Bocco a goal, but Joash Onyango reacted quickly shielding the Simba marksman from burying the rebound.
The first promising move for the visitors came in the 13th, when Musa Masika advanced to the opponent’s goal up the box from the right only to be denied by experienced Gadiel Michael as he pulled the trigger.
Whyvonne Isuza would have given Taifa Stars custodian Juma Kaseja some work to do three minutes later but his was too wide, albeit the comfort to shoot under no pressure.
Migne’s Stars were soon knocking the around the ball more confidently in the midfield, reducing the menace that had been showed in the early stages. However, there was nothing meaningful to show by the attackers.
Oyemba did well to deny a corner ball sumptuously sent to Bocco, who had risen above Star’s defense to head home in the 37th.
By the end of the first half, Masika had shifted to the left wing then to the centre momentarily, as Kenya struggled to make impact upfront.
Upon resumption, Masika was withdrawn for Gor Mahia man Samuel Onyango, taking the left wing role as Enosh strolled to his usual centre.
Tanzania earned two successive corners within three minutes, with Kenya responding in the 49th with their first of the second stanza, all going to waste.
A while later, Enosh, quite dull in the game hitherto, gave away an easy ball that irked Migne, immediately signalling Piston Mutamba to be summoned from the warm up corner to replace him.
In reaction, Taifa Stars’ Etienne Ndayigiraje brought on Ibrahim Ajib for Ayub Lyanga, with both sides employing a more attacking approach.
Dilunga thought he had broken the deadlock as the clock ticked towards an hour, but his goals was ruled offside.
A 17-year old Kevin John was handed his national team debut as a hardworking Dilunga was rested, before bringing on striker Salim Aiyee for captain Bocco.
More pressure was on Kenya’s defense, but an impressive Oyemba stood tall in his debut competitive match.
With Migne sensing a draw, in the 89th, he threw into the fray a more defensive Ibrahim Shambi for Isuza, and the stalemate was sealed.