NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 9 – The result Kenya dreaded came to pass on Saturday night as the Brave Warriors of Namibia dealt the country’s 2014 World Cup aspirations a huge a dent with a 1-0 defeat in a tightly contested encounter in Windhoek.
In a match that Harambee Stars posted an improved performance to the showing that earned them a 0-0 draw against Malawi in their Group F opener; Botes Henrico beat the returning Norway based Arnold Origi with a close range header for the vital goal in the 76th minute.
The other result in the pool that saw Super Eagles draw 1-1 away to The Flames in Malawi meant that Kenya props the group with a single point, three adrift of leaders Nigeria who are on four.
Namibia moved second with three with Malawi on two in a group that remains tight in the race for the solo ticket for the winner that will qualify that team to the knock-out phase of the road to Brazil 2014.
In front of a packed Independence Stadium in Windhoek, Stars set about the initial stages with the poise of a home side as they sought the early breakthrough.
But the hosts settled into the game as the half wore on, with forward Eslin Kamuhanga placing his effort wide of the upright with Origi to beat in the 37th.
Three minutes later, Origi justified his return to first choice by thwarting the dangerous midfielder Heinrich Isaacks who let rip from range before the home side were awarded an indirect free kick on 44.
The delivery fell to winger Lazarus Kaimbi who sent his finish wide with the Kenyan defence marshalled by Joseph Shikokoti, Jockins Atudo, James Situma and Dennis Nzomo all at sea.
Seven minutes after the breather, Origi once again foiled Isaacks who connected smartly from a corner before Stars raced up the field and worked the ball to their record scorer, AJ Auxerre Ligue 1 star and captain, Dennis Oliech in the 54th.
Oliech brought down the leather with exquisite skill and deployed a finish that brought the best out of Virgill Vries in the Brave Warriors goal as Kenya wasted a golden chance to net the all important away goal.
Just past the hour mark, Origi was called to action to block Kaimbi as the hosts began asserting themselves in the match.
And with 14 to go, they got the breakthrough after Henrico, who was booked in the first half, rose the highest to plant the ball in the net for the opener.
Stars coach, Francis Kimanzi withdrew Kevin Ochieng soon after for Patrick Osiako to stem the loss of possession in midfield and with eight minutes to go, he hauled in flashy midfielder, Jamal Mohammed for defender Nzomo as he chased the equaliser.
With four minutes of added time up on the board, Stars almost salvaged a point in the 91st minute when substitute Mohammed floated in a teasing corner that was attacked by the lanky Shikokoti but to his dismay, the ball was cleared off the line.
Namibia held on for their third successive home win over Stars following a 1-0 success in 1997 and a 2-1 victory in May 2008.
Stars will stay in Namibia until Tuesday before flying out to Ghana to prepare for the second leg of their 2013 Africa Nations Cup qualifier in Lome with a 2-1 lead to protect.
But the result in Windhoek leaves Kimanzi’s side once again staring at the trap door of a first ever World Cup appearance.
Stars next face group favourites, the Super Eagles on March 22 next year away in Nigeria.
Ruben Gabriel scored what he thought was the winner a minute for full time for Nigeria who edged Namibia 1-0 in their opening encounter before John Banda rescued the point for host Malawi in the 92nd in a dramatic ending to the other pool encounter.
STARS LINE-UP (Subs in brackets)
Arnold Origi, Brian Mandela, Joseph Shikokoti, Jockins Atudo, James Situma, Dennis Nzomo (Jamal Mohammed), Kevin Opondo (Patrick Osiako) Victor Wanyama, Collins Okoth, Patrick Oboya (Clifton Miheso), Dennis Oliech,