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Stubborn Stars nick a point off Congo

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STARS-TRAININGNAIROBI, June 14- Harambee Stars battled to launch their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign with a draw after forcing hosts Congo Brazzaville to a 1-1 deadlock on Sunday.

Amazulu FC winger Paul Were gave Kenya the lead after nine minutes before skipper, Prince Oniague levelled from the spot in the first half before Kenya resorted to time wasting and chocking tactics after the break to secure the result.

Following Zambia’s barren draw at home to minnows Guinea Bissau, Group E of the qualifiers remained locked on one point apiece.

Young striker, Michael Olunga could have given Stars the perfect lift-off but allowed nerves to betray him when he got a guilt edged chance in the seventh minute.

Winger Noah Wafula dribbled past Dimitri Bissiki to deliver a pin point cross that the Gor striker spurned with a rushed finish.

However, the visitors soon got off to a dream start against the run of play when former AFC Leopards winger, Paul Were fired them ahead when he caught out keeper Christopher Mafoumbi with a crisp shot in the ninth minute.

Were who is seeking a return to the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) after a stint at South Africa’s Amazulu FC sprinted to a long ball on the left, cut in and took aim, beating the diving Mafoumbi at the far post.

Rattled, Congo started finding their range and dominated play but could not find a way past the sometime cagey Stars rearguard until Jackson Saleh gifted them a penalty in the 34th minute when he needlessly handled in the box.

Up stepped France based Reims midfielder and their captain, Prince Oniague to beat Boniface Oluoch from 12 yards for the leveller.

The tide of the match turned with Stars under siege with Greek giants Olympiakos midfielder, Delvin N’Dinga hitting the side netting when with the Kenyan defence at sea before the same player killed a long ball and wiggled his way into the box but his post cannoned off the bottom of the post from an impossible angle.

Oluoch almost gifted the hosts the extend the lead shortly after half time when he raced off his line and missed a long punt but defender David Ocheing spared his blushes when he cleared Férébory Doré effort off the line.

Moments later, N’Dinga almost fount the target after the Kenyan defence was beaten but his shot sailed inches wide.

With the hosts pilling pressure on the Stars backline, Williamson withdrew Wafula for Belgian based winger Ayub Timbe to try and find the second goal.

But up came Congo and after Owino handled the ball at the edge of the box Oluoch redeemed himself when he parried out Ladislas Douniama set piece.

Stars first attack in the second half came in the 77th when Were headed wide Allan Wanga’s back flip before Williamson pulled him out for Kevin Kimani.

Oluoch once again went on an unprompted walkabout to put his team in grave danger seven minutes to the final whistle but Doré only saw his shot hit side netting as Kenya survived.

The Gor Mahia keeper was then booked for time wasting.

Williamson did his final substitution pulling off un effective Wanga for Sudan based Anthony Akumu.

Mafaumbi denied Timbe in added time when he parried the Belgians cracker in what was the last attack of the game.

Stars next host the Chipolopolo September 5 in Nairobi in the second match of Group E.

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