Kenya national team, Harambee Stars, extended their unbeaten run to four matches after settling for a barren stalemate against Uganda Cranes in an international friendly battled out at the Nelson Mandela Stadium, Namboole, Uganda, Tuesday evening.
Stars went into the match at the back of two draws against Sudan and Tanzania a 2-1 win over Congo and they ensured Coach Stanley Okumbi got a fairly fine result against a much-fancied hosts.
Harambee Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi went for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Zesco United forward Jesse Were at the peak and Francis Kahata in the ‘hole’ as captain Victor Wanyama patrolled the midfield alongside Antony Akumu.
Olunga started from the bench at the back of scoring a stunner for his Swedish side Djurgarden IF this past weekend.
Cranes on the other hand handed starting roles for Khalid Aucho, the former Gor Mahia midfielder who is now donning the Baroka FC jersey. Godfrey Walusimbi started wide with Emmanuel Okwi and Geoffrey Massa upfront. Standard Liege forward Farouk Miya was on the bench alongside PSL winning keeper Dennis Onyango of Mamelodi Sundowns.
Uganda had a fine start as they earned a corner inside the first minute. Walusimbi, who had earned the corner, took it but it was dealt with by Wanyama who was standing in the right place at the right time.
Kenya attacked in the third minute with Johanna sliding a through ball towards Were but Murushid Jjuuko was alert and cleared the danger.
The Harambee Stars sat back and looked to hit Uganda on the counter. The Cranes got their second corner in the 12th minute but failed to utilize it before Calabar made a timely interception to prevent Moses Oloya’s pass from getting to Yunus Sentamu after a lovely give and go.
Uganda were awarded two freekicks in promising positions which they failed to utilize in between a dangerous attack from Kenya that forced keeper Salim Jamal to move out of his line and clear the danger.
Captain Massa was then felled outside the 18-yard area but he sent his effort wide while Okwi was stopped on his tracks by the impressive Calabar in the final two attacks of the opening half which ended barren.
The hosts were the first to make changes as Joseph Ochaya, Tonny Mawejje, Miya and William Kizito all came in after the interval with Walusimbi, Massa, Sentamu and Okwi giving way. Kenya followed moments later with Danson Kago replacing Kahata, pushing Timbe to the No. 10 role.
Uganda created two quick chances after the interval with Miya sending a weak volley towards Oluoch before William Luwagga Kizito shot wide after being set up by Aucho.
Kenya were almost gifted a goal five minutes after the hour mark when Johanna intercepted a blind pass from Luwagga but the Mathare United winger rushed with his effort, shooting wide on the turn.
Aucho was then forced to clear on the line after his keeper Jamal had been lobbed by Timbe as Kenya enjoyed their best spell of attacking football.
Marcelo then came off for Aboud Omar who took duties at leftback in the 70th minute.
Josh Lelan made his debut, replacing Musa Mohammed in the 77th minute and 8 minutes, Olunga replaced Were in a like-for-like change for Stars.
Johanna soon followed, giving way to Ulinzi forward John Mark Makwatta as Okumbi added another out and out striker upfront with time running out.
Timbe almost wins it
Kenya poured upfront for the final time and almost got the winner in the 87th minute but Jamal stopped a goal-bound effort from Timbe.
The full time whistle was blown with the two sides sharing a barren draw but the Cranes were left worried over an injury to Aucho late in the game.
The two sides now shift their attention to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with Uganda hosting Comoros while Kenya will be away to Zambia in a dead-rubber clash as both teams have already been bundled out.
Harambee Stars Starting XI: Boniface Oluoch (GK), David Owino, David Ochieng, Musa Mohammed, Erick Ouma, Victor Wanyama, Teddy Akumu, Ayub Timbe, Eric Johanna, Francis Kahata, Jesse Were
Subs: David Okello (GK), Brian Mandela, Kemboi Joshua, Victor Majid, Ismail Gonzalez, Danson Kago, John Makwatta, Michael Olunga
Uganda Starting Cranes XI: Salim Jamal Magoola (G.K), Nicholas Wadada, Godfrey Walusimbi, Murushid Jjuuko, Isaac Isinde, Hassan Wasswa Mawanda, Moses Oloya, Aucho Khalid, Emmanuel Arnold Okwi, Yunus Sentamu, Geofrey Massa (Captain)
Subs: Ismael Watenga, Benjamin Ochan, Tonny Mawejje, Luwagga Kizito, Farouk Miya, Vincent Kayizzi, Edrissa Lubega, Geoffrey Sserunkuma, Ivan Ntege, Joseph Ochaya, Timothy Awany, Erisa Sekisambu
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