Kenya national team, Harambee Stars claimed perhaps their biggest upset in recent memory after giving favorites DR Congo a humiliating 1-0 home defeat in an international friendly battled out at the Stade Des Martyrs de la Pentecôte in Lingwala, Kinshasa Tuesday (Oct. 4) evening.
Michael Olunga scored the decisive goal in the 65th minute against the run of play to give Stanley Okumbi the biggest win in his short CV as the head coach of the national team.
After a barren first half which the hosts bossed, the visitors stunned the home crowd five minutes into the hour mark. Substitute Paul Were, replacing Rama Salim in the 63rd minute, got the beating of his marker down the left wing with some witty step-overs.
The winger's intended cross somehow swerved and the ball hit the post. Olunga who had been waiting for the cross must have counted his lucky stars when the ball fell on his path and he guided it home to give Kenya a shock lead.
Boniface Oluoch put a fine shift in goal to thwart the Congolese forward line which was led by Everton winger Yannick Bolasie. Frimin Mobele came closest to hitting the equalizer for the Leopards but his freekick hit the bar while Bolasie spunned a huge opportunity inside the box, skying a volley.
DRC dominated the proceedings from the onset but could not go past the experienced backline marshalled by the day's captain David Owino. Congo had their first eye on target in the 6th minute when Paul Jose Mpoku beat Aboud Omar on the left flank, crossing it to Jonathan Bolingi who shot straight at Oluoch.
It was a midfield battle between Ismael Gonzalez and Vital Nsimba and the latter easily won the proceedings early on in the match, forcing the visitors to commit many unnecessary fouls. The first real chance for Kenya came in the 24th minute when Jesse Were found his striking partner Olunga but the latter's feeble shot was well gathered by the new DRC number one Joel Kiasumbua.
Despite the hosts knitting short and crisp passes in the first half, nothing could separate the two teams as they headed into halftime on even terms.
Congo ran rings around the Kenyan back line during the early embers of the second half. Aboud Omar was especially exposed down the left where Bolasie and Jonathan Bolingi enjoyed having a go at the former Tusker FC man, the latter even dishing out a morale-sapping nutmeg.
Congo should have put the game to bed early but they seemed overconfident as they missed one opportunity after another. Kenya sat back deep, very deep, and chased shadows as the Leopards feasted on the acres of space given to them, Jordan Botaka especially proving a constant nuisance down the right channel.
Harambee seemed ready to use their pace to penetrate on the counter. They curved out a rare forward foray but Joackins Atudo over hit his cross while Eric Johanna had Olunga up in arms after under-cooking a pass as the Djurgarden forward prepared to lurch onto the ball and take aim.
The warning signs were aplenty but Congo, for reasons best known to them, refused to take note. That was to be at their detriment as Paul Were, replacing Rama Salim just two minutes earlier, showed his class and Olunga's predatory instinct did the rest.
As the Kenyan players rushed towards the corner flag to celebrate, their Congolese counterparts trudged towards the center circle to restart the proceedings. Their man in charge of handling statistics must have come across the fact that Stars knew anything but keeping their lead while on the road.
And so the hosts, predictably, controlled the remaining 25 minutes but with Kenya boss Okumbi having five defenders on the pitch (David Ochieng replacing Ismael Gonzalez) Stars for once held on to a lead as they collected a famous win.
It is the first time Stars have gotten a result against the Congolese who had won all the 4 previous fixtures since they shaded the Zaire name. The most recent meetings were in the 2011 Nile Basin Tournament which Congo identically won 1-0, both home and away.
The result will be more than welcome in Kenya's camp at least as far as Fifa rankings is concerned while you can't understate the impact such a result can have on the players and the technical bench. For Congo, it's the worst way they can prepare for Saturday's World Cup Qualifier against Libya but you might want to believe they have learnt a lesson.
Stars are now unbeaten in 6 matches and we are not talking small.opposition here. We are talking against Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and the two Congos!
Congratulations boys... Onwards and upwards!
Congo DR Starting XI: 16. Kiassumbua Joel, 14. Zakuani Gabriel, 4. Dualembo Christopher, 22. Chancel Mbemba, 6. Nsimba Vital, 20. Maghoma Jacques, 15. Youssef Mulumbu, 8. Mpoku Jose, 7. Jordan Botaka, Mubele Firmin, 9. Jonathan Bolingi
Kenya Starting XI: Boniface Oluoch (GK), Joackins Atudo, Brian Mandela, David Owino (c), Aboud Omar, Ismael Gonzalez, Anthony Akumu, Rama Salim, Eric Johanna, Jesse Were, Michael Olunga
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