NAIROBI, Kenya, December 10 – An early first half goal by Thika United midfielder, Clifton Miheso, was all Harambee Stars needed to sail through to the GOtv Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup finals after edging out Kilimanjaro Stars 1-0 in a floodlit match played at a slippery Nyayo National Stadium on Tuesday.
The hosts, who have the opportunity to reclaim the title that they last won over a decade ago, will meet Sudan who eased past former African champions Zambia 2-1 in extra-time in an entreating match played at Aga Khan Stadium in Mombasa.
Stars coach Adel Amrouche, dedicated the victory to Machakos County Governor Dr. Alfred Mutua, who ferried the fans to Nyayo Stadium after organisers ruled out Kenyatta Stadium, the initial venue for the match due to heavy downpour.
“We are in progression with the team since we are only one match away to the title, so we will prepare adequately for Sudan who we meet in the finals.
“I have hopes with the boys because they are young, I believe they will be up to the task to face the strong Sudanese side,” the Harambee stars coach who is building on the young team for international matches, stated after the match.
Amrouche started with Miheso and Edwin Lavatsa instead of AFC Leopards forward Noah Wafula and KCB’s Jacob Keli, which paid minutes after kick-off, as the two combined well with Francis Kahata and captain Allan Wanga.
Gor Mahia midfielder Teddy Akumu tested keeper Ivo Mapunda with a long range cracker, that forced the custodian to spill the ball, and Miheso followed it for a rebound to open the scores in the fifth minute.
Miheso could have notched a brace after he connected lavatsa’s cross from the right wing, but his shot went wide.
Tanzanians threatened to level through Yanga attacking midfielder, Mrisho Ngasa, with his well taken free kick that forced keeper Duncan Ochieng to punch the ball back into the box with Sofapaka defender James Situma saving his brushes with a quick clearance.
Akumu who was voted the man of the match, could have scored his first goal in the tournament with his shot from six yards, but his strike went direct to the arms of his club mate Mapunda.
With minutes to halftime, Ramadhan Kiemba had a chance to level the scores, after utilizing Erasto Nyoni’s cross that found Ochieng on the right position to handle the ball easily.
TP Mazembe forward Thomas Ulimwengu thought he had scored with his powerful strike, only to be dined by a cross bar as the match entered to the breather with Kenya leading 1-0.
Kilimanjaro Stars resumed to the last half with their heads high, managing to break through the Kenyan defense that saw Ngasa and Mbwana Samata firing shots that Ochieng saved.
Wanga failed to find the back of the net from a Kahata cross, leading Amrouche to substitute him with Wafula who needed more time to combine with Peter Opiyo and Akumu.
In the dying minutes, Samata could have forced extra time, after he picked the ball on the left flank with only Ochieng to beat, but his strike was wide and referee Thiery Nkurunziza from Burundi shortly blew for full time and Kenya sealed their place for their second successive final.
In the early kick-off, Sudan came from a goal down to trump 2012 African champions Chipolopolo of Zambia 2-1 in extra time book their place for first time since 2007.
After a barren first half, Sudan could have opened the scores in the 53rd had Arnier Kamal found the target.
Three minutes later, the Nile Crocodiles easily penetrated the Zambian defense but lacked the final touch to surge ahead as Faris Abdalla fluffed his lines to allow keeper Nsabata Toaster punch out for a fruitless corner.
Ronald Kampamba opened the scoring for the guest team in the 113th minute of extra time before Sudan equalised four minutes later through Miaaz Abdelraham.
Dangerman and leading tournament scorer, Salah Ibrahim, sealed victory for his side in the final minute of the added period with a last gasp strike that took his personal tally to five for the tournament.
The competition takes a break Wednesday with third place play-off between Tanzania and Zambia set for Thursday at Nyayo before the final kicks-off at the same venue.