The Kenya national women’s team, Harambee Starlets, fulfilled the dream of a nation after qualifying for their first ever Africa Women’s Cup of Nations following a 3-3 aggregate result over Algeria.
Starlets who gave themselves a promising chance by holding the North Africans to a 2-2 draw in the first leg completed the job in Nairobi, battling from behind to draw 1-1 and advance on away goals, Cheris Avilia with the equalizer.
Kenya mobbed their visitors from the off and could have taken the lead in the 7th minute but Neddy Atieno skied her effort some 25 yards out.
The dangerous Mwanalima ‘Dogo’ Adam would find the back of the net in the 13th minute but she was adjudged offside.
Algeria were finding pockets of spaces to run into on Kenya’s left side of the defence which was manned by Wendy Achieng’ whose lack of pace was being exploited.
Naima Bouhani, the scorer of Algeria’s twin goals in the 2-2 first leg stalemate, made it three goals in the tie when she slotted home in the 22nd minute from a goal mouth scramble, the visitors taking the lead against the run of play.
Esse Akida had a golden chance to draw Kenya level five minutes later but she blasted over from inside the box after a Neddy Atieno cross.
Three minutes later, Mary Kinuthia rattled the bar in what was Kenya’s last chance of the half.
Algeria began the second half with their one goal advantage which they almost doubled but Starlets keeper Samantha Akinyi dived low to make a stunning save.
Kenya’s first second half attack came from a Cheris Avilian freekick which was gathered by the Algerian keeper.
Wendy Achieng then whipped in a cross in the 69th minute which begged for the slightest of touches, Esse coming close but her feet was just inches short.
Head coach David Ouma made his substitutions, Corazon Aquino and Christin Nafula replacing Caroline Anyango and Tabaka Chacha respectively.
The substitutions saw Kenya take a foothold of the game and the ladies pulled level in the 77th minute through Cheris Avilia, a goal that sent the whole stadium into a delirium.
The roofs almost came off five minutes later when captain Mary Kinuthia hit the side netting. Dogo then shrugged off her markers and went for a cheeky finish from outside the area which went just wide.
The visitors looked rattled and could have conceded more with Dogo and Neddy Atieno coming close.
They won two successive corners in the three minutes added time but the girls did the job to earn a deserved qualification.
Harambee Starlets Starting XI: 1. Samantha Akinyi (GK), 8. Anne Aluoch Onyango (C), 15. Wendy Achieng, 3. Irene Awuor Ogutu, 5. Nixon Dorcas Sikobe, 10. Carolyne Anyango Omondi, 13. Tabaka Chacha, 4. Kinuthia Mary Wanjiku, 9. Neddy Atieno Okoth, 14. Esse Mbeyu Akida, 2. Jereko Mwanahalima Adam
Substitutes: 30. Poline Atieno Owino (GK), 17. Ogiro Dorris Anyango, 18. Vivian Corazone Aquino, 7. Cheris Avilia Salano, 6. Christin Nafula, 12. Enez Medeizi Mango, 19. Mithuka Martha Karimi
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