DAR-ES-SALAAM, Tanzania, November 29 – Harambee Stars head coach, Francis Kimanzi was scrambling for answers following their crushing 2-0 defeat to Malawi Flames in the CECAFA Senior Challenge opener on Monday.
The result was the highlight of Day 3 action where Uganda became the first side to confirm their qualification to the quarterfinals by beating Somali 4-0 as Sudan and Ethiopia battled to a 1-1 stalemate.
KENYA 0 MALAWI 2
It was Harambee Stars worst possible start to the Challenge Cup campaign and a feeling of De Javu for the side after the same opponents beat them 3-2 at last year’s edition.
John Banda’s first half volley and a penalty from skipper Joseph Kamwendo in the second period condemned Stars to the real possibility of another first round exit from the regional showdown in succession.
At the post-match Press conference, head coach Francis Kimanzi said the lack of an out-and-out central striker was not the cause of the team’s bluntness in front of goal that saw his team struggle to fashion any real scoring chances.
“I brought the top goal scorers from our domestic league, they maybe midfielders but they scored the most goals,” he stated adding, “Stephen Waruru with 12, Bob Mugalia with nine, Kevin Kimani with nine are all here but that us not the problem.”
“Sometimes, you can start badly, I do not believe we played too poorly but we made mistakes and in tournaments, you get punished. This was the first game of the tournament and we wanted to tread confidently although it did not work,” he added.
He remained optimistic of progressing from a tough pool that also has Ethiopia and 2012 Nations Cup bound Sudan.
“We still have two matches and I do believe we can build our mental strength from our second game and make the quarterfinals,” Kimanzi enthused.
His opposite number, Kinnah Phiri, was glowing after his side gutted their 2014 World Cup Africa qualifiers rivals to gain the psychological advantage ahead of their meeting in June next year.
“Last year there was something wrong. This year I have younger players who want to prove themselves and we want to do better,” he said.
Kenya play Ethiopia on Wednesday knowing defeat would see them pack their bags early, their tournament favourite tag in tatters.
They have only this tournament to regain their confidence before the opening match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Campaign, where they play former World Cup finalists Togo next February.
Harambee Stars missed qualification to the 2012 AFCON finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Monday’s loss brought back the nightmares of last year’s event when Kenya, under Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, again lost to Malawi 3-2 in their opening match to eventually bow out in the preliminary round with three straight losses.
SUDAN 1 ETHIOPIA 1
Sudan and Ethiopia settled to a 1-1 draw in the first Group ‘C’ match at the National Stadium.
Sudan drew first blood with a fifth minute through Mohammed Tahir Osman and should have doubled the lead in the 11th but Abdi Ishag shot off target from a clear position.
But a resilient Ethiopian side regrouped and got the equaliser in the 34th through Getaneh Kebede who picked up a long ball from the midfield to fire past Elmoiz Mahgoub between the sticks for Sudan.
The second half was a tale of numerous missed chances by Ethiopia as Sudan lost their grip on the match. Ethiopia’s best chance of the half fell to substitute Shemeles Bekele Godo in the 80th who blasted wide in front of an empty goal.
SOMALIA 0 UGANDA 4
In Group B action at the Azam FC Stadium, 25 kilometres out in Chamazi, Emmanuel Okwi grabbed a hat-trick as Uganda Cranes whipped Somalia 4-0.
Robert Ssentongo added another to steer the Uganda Cranes to the convincing win and send Somalia packing home.
The Somalis lost 1-4 to Burundi on the opening day last Friday. On the same day Ugandans edged Zanzibar Heroes 2-1.