BY STEVE AYOO
West Ham United fullback Arthur Masuaku netted a late equalizer to earn the Democratic Republic of Congo a 1-1 draw against Kenya in the two nations’ final friendly match before the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Michael Olunga’s left footed strike had given Kenya a half time lead which they protected until three minutes to the end when Masuaku popped in with the equalizer, his freekick just outside the penalty area getting in under some bit of help from Kenyan keeper Patrick Matasi.
DRC were outplayed in the opening half but controlled the proceedings after the interval, even affording to miss a penalty as Matasi saved Cedric Bakambu’s spot kick.
The duo clashed at the Estadio de Santa Ana in Madrid, Saturday, with both sides looking to get a result that could give them a good momentum heading into the continental showpiece set to kick off next Saturday.
Both coaches, Frolent Ibenge of the DRC and Stars’ Sebastien Migne, picked up strong starting XIs, perhaps giving hints on the personnel expected to do battle from the off in Egypt.
For Kenya, Joseph Okumu replaced Musa Mohammed in central defence with the assistant skipper starting from the bench while recovering from an injury he suffered in the win against Madagascar.
Olunga started upfront with Eric Johanna and Ayub Timbe on the channels.
Timbe, who limped off injured 10 minutes into the second half, played a huge role in creating Olunga’s goal as he cut in from the right, left two Congo players sprawling on the ground before finding the Kashiwa Reysol hitman who, from the edge of the area, directed the ball to the keeper’s far post and into the net.
Team of stars
A star-studded Congo side, boasting big names like Masuaku, Bakambu, Yannick Bolasie, Yussuf Mulumbu and Tresor Mputu, always posed some threat but were largely kept at bay by a resolute Kenyan back line.
They however got a fine opportunity to draw level minutes after the break but Matasi saved from Bakambu who had won the penalty.
Matasi would be more overworked in the second half but he stood firm until the 87th minute when he got beat.
The result means Kenya have now avoided defeat against DRC in their last three matches, winning twice.
The two nations will head to Egypt ahead of the kickoff. DRC are in Group A alongside hosts Egypt, Uganda and Zimbabwe while Kenya are in Group C alongside Algeria, Senegal and Tanzania.