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Young Stars hold Azzuri in thriller

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KINGATUA-ETHIOPIANAIROBI, Kenya, April 16 – Thika United forward David King’atua scored a brace to help Kenya Under-20 come from two goals down to draw 3-3 with visiting Italy Under-18 in a thrilling friendly match played at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium on Wednesday.

The host were using the match as preparation for their return leg African Youth Championship qualifier against Tanzania to be played in Dar-es-Salaam this weekend after settling for a goalless draw in Machakos a week ago.

Moreno Ricardo opened the scoring after 10 minutes before Zottino Francesco doubled the advantage in the 21st through a penalty.

King’atua pulled one back in the 36th before Gor Mahia midfielder, Timona Wanyonyi, levelled early in the second half but the hosts found themselves 3-2 down after Ricardo notched his brace seven minutes later.

A minute past the hour mark, King’atua pulled the sides level once again for 3-3 to close the goal fest that had the scanty crowd that gathered at the stadium entertained nonetheless.

“It was a good learning experience knowing the Italians have  good structures right from the age of six. According to me the boys gave their best and kudos to them. My technical bench has really worked a lot to build the team.

“We have learnt a lot especially in set pieces where they are good at but on the overall, we played well despite lacking composure inside the 18 yard box. This is a good sign that we can go places if we can put our structures right,” John Kamau, who coaches King’atua at Thika United said after the pulsating encounter.

“Otherwise it was a morale booster ahead of our Tanzania game,” he added.

Italian coach, Massimiliano Moras, lauded the Kenyans recovering from a two-goal deficit to force the stalemate.

“In the first half we played well but my players relaxed in the second but we were playing a stronger team. Our opponents showed good impression because they were tactically and mentally fit,” he acknowledged.

Kamau started with a strong side that featured eight Kenyan Premier League players but it took his charges half an hour to settle in the game.

The visitors were the first to threaten after three minutes with Ricardo receiving a pass from Lenzini Cosimo, only for his effort to hit the cross bar.

After piling pressure in the Kenyan defence, their efforts paid through the forward who headed home Marconi Kevin cross from the left to break the deadlock.

Wanyonyi could have leveled in the 18th after receiving a through ball from Bandari forward Victor Ndinya, leaving him with keeper Beleve Marco to beat but he missed his kick as the relieved visitors defence cleared.

Three minutes later, Francesco doubled for Italy through a penalty after Nardi Mattia was hacked down in the box by Thika United defender, Vincent Mumbo with referee Davis Omweno not hesitating to point to the spot.

John Nairuka had the first shot on target for Kenya in the 25th striking straight at the keeper from the right.

The Thika United striker had another chance a minute later but he tapped wide from Wanyonyi’s header.

King’atua pulled one back  in the 36th, deflecting Ndinya’s shot just inside the box to beat keeper Beleve Marco.

Kenya should have made it 2-2  on the stoke of half-time but Ndinya headed wide Wanyonyi’s cross with no defender on his shoulder as the home team trailed 2-1 into the break.

The hosts returned a better side, restoring parity in the 49th through Wanyonyi who connected Nairuka’s pass from the right.

However, the draw was cancelled three minutes later where Ricardo took advantage of a defensive mix up to score his brace and take the Italians back in front.

Kamau charges did not cow and went on the attack and their efforts brought reward when the effervescent King’atua found the back of the net for his second in the 61st after Wanyonyi set him through.

Kenya dominated in the dying minutes with substitute Sammy Mejja seeing his shot hit the crossbar as the match ended 3-3.

The Italian side will next play Gor Under-19 in their last build up match at the same venue on Friday.

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