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Olunga saves Stars in Burundi stalemate

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Harambee Stars striker, Michael Olunga, celebrates his goal against Cape Verde in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers at Nyayo Stadium. He was on target as Stars were held 1-1 by Burundi. PHOTO/File

Harambee Stars striker, Michael Olunga, celebrates his goal against Cape Verde in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers at Nyayo Stadium. He was on target as Stars were held 1-1 by Burundi. PHOTO/File

NAIROBI, November 25 – Champions Harambee Stars and Burundi cancelled each other out in their second 2015 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup-Group B match to settle for a 1-1 draw at Hawassa International Stadium Ethiopia on Wednesday.

Stars maintained top spot in Group B on four points, same with Burundi who have an inferior goal difference.

The result was a sigh of relief to Uganda Cranes who are second a point behind the leaders after demolishing Zanzibar 4-0 on Tuesday.

Kenya face limping Zanzibar in their last preliminary match on Friday; a game they cannot afford to drop points if they are to book an automatic quarter finals slot.

And there are no prizes for guessing who pulled Kenya out of the rut in a game Burundi came out firing to salvage the point that kept Stars’ title defense on course.

Gor Mahia forward; Michael Olunga, the only change in Bobby Williamson’s squad coming on for Jesse Were; came to Kenya’s rescue when he levelled four minutes to the interval after  Amisi Tabwe opened the scoring in the 11th minute.

In a balanced first half, Burundi o featured two SportPesa Premier League players, captain Karim Nizigiyimana who plays for Gor and Sofapaka’s Fuadi Ndayisenga were very instrumental to hold Kenya until Olunga broke through.

Nizigiyimana man-marked club mate Olunga, denying him in the space to operate in the box as soon as proceedings got underway in a packed stadium where home fans were waiting for the Walia Ibex were to take on Somalia in the second game of the day.

The Burundians sparked into life when Ndayisenga dribbled past skipper, David Ochieng, on the left to cut in to Tambwe who tapped the ball past keeper Boniface Oluoch to force the champions chase the game.

Finland based winger, Clifton Miheso then headed wide from Omar Mbongi’s delivery before seeing his cross intercepted.

Stars mounted more pressure on the Burundians and got the equaliser when Miheso delivered a deep ball into the area for Jacob Keli, who scored the opener in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Uganda, who knocked it down for Olunga.

The K’Ogalo forward notched his 37th goal of a memorable year when he brushed past David’s Nshimirimana with a clever dummy before smashing past Arthur Arakaza with a low right foot shot for his second of the tournament.

-Wasteful changes-

Williamson rang the changes in the second half; introducing Christian Bwamy in midfield for K’Ogalo’s Collins Okoth to seek the advantage.

For all his scoring prowess, Olunga and Miheso combined to spurn the opportunities that fell their way with the lanky forward first forcing Arakaza to dive and parry away his long range thunderbolt as Mbongi recovered swiftly on the other hand to block Tabwe’s strike in the box when Burundi attacked the other end.

Azam FC forward, Allan Wanga came in for the ineffectual Keli as the Scotsman sought more bite upfront as the half drew to a close.

Miheso them cut in for Bwamy who saw his shot blocked but it was Mathare United’s Eric Johanna who could have been the hero when he shinned Didier Kavumbavu to unleash a ferocious low shot but Arakaza but blocked with his legs for a fruitless corner at the near post.

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