NAIROBI, Kenya, July 8- Harambee Stars came from the brink of an embarrasing defeat to hold tiny Lesotho 2-2 in their opening tie of their maiden COSAFA Castle Cup in Kitwe, Zambia on Monday evening.
The result brought into sharp focus the wisdom or lack thereof of their decision to arrive to Zambia on match day having jetted into the country only hours to kick-off.
Finding themselves 2-0 dowb after 52 minutes, Adel Amrouche’s side fought back in the last seven minutes to level the tie with goals from Gor Mahia star, Paul Kiongera who headed in his teammates’ David Owino cross on 82 minutes.
Jockins Atudo levelled from the spot after Ralekoti Mokhahlane handled in the box with a minute to the final whistle to save Stars from what would have been construed as a stunning defeat of the favourites in a group that has Swaziland and Botswana.
Featuring a side full of Kenyan Premier League (KPL) aces, most of them who were involved in intense domestic matches on Sunday, Kenya found themselves trailing in a match they started without holding even a single training session.
In a bizzare twist of fate, Atudo was deemed to have fouled Litsepe Marabe inside the box and Mokhahlane dispatched the ball past skipper Duncan Ochieng in the Stars goal.
Soon after the restart, Thapelo Tale punished suicidal defending by David Ochieng when he planted the ball past his namesake in goal to establish a 2-0 advantage.
To their credit, Stars went on the offensive to save their skins with the introductions of Kiongera and AFC Leopards winger, Paul Were providing the impetus and it is the former who played a crucial role in Gor’s gritty 1-0 win at
Bandari on Sunday who brought his team back to the contest eight minutes from time.
The comeback was completed when Atudo and Mokhahlane swapped roles to give Amrouche’s side who play Swaziland on Tuesday a life-line.
Should they top the group, Stars who are one of the invited teams to the 2013 COSAFA tourney will face Angola in the quarter-finals.