NAIROBI, September 6 – Harambee Stars ended its losing jinx against Namibia with a narrow 1-0 victory on Saturday in a 2010 World Cup qualifier at Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani.
A penalty by Jamal Mohammed on the stroke of halftime was enough to give Stars all three points moving them to top of group two with ten points as well as gaining some measure of revenge on the visitors who had beaten them 2-1in the first leg in May.
Kenya had not beaten Namibia in three previous meetings and perhaps weighed down by history, Stars never really set the stadium alight and it was far from a comfortable win as the Brave Warriors dominated the second half.
The hosts were strangely subdued sitting back on their lead which encouraged the Namibians to attack but in the end a spirited defensive performance and by George Owino in particular saw them home.
Coach Francis Kimanzi sprung a surprise by leaving regular Kevin Ochieng on the bench with Sweden based Mohammed included in the staring line up for the first time in a more than a year.
The decision seemed fully justified as the silky midfielder was all flicks and turns, dictating proceedings from the middle of the park with his deft footwork. He should count himself lucky to escape a sending off eights minutes in when he trod on Oliver Risser’s knee with the giant Namibian forward being stretchered off.
Ulinzi’s Mulinge Munandi was another player earning his first start under Kimanzi and he provided the first opportunity with a right wing cross that skipper Robert mambo failed to connect with.
Minutes later, Patrick Oboya floated in another inviting cross but Mambo again could not reach. Mohammed raced to the by line but his cutback was snuffed out by Namibia goalkeeper Attiel Mbaha.
The visitors had their first chance on the half hour when Collins Benjamin headed over with Noah Ayuko well beaten.
Mohammed then went close after good work by Oboya who had one of his better games for Stars.
The goal came on the stroke of halftime when left back John Njoroge was brought down by Samson Bester in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Mohammed to send Mbaha the wrong way and put Stars 1-0.
The Brave warriors were a rejuvenated side after the break. Suddenly they were stringing passes together and put the hosts on the back foot.
German based striker Collins Benjamin went close on the hour but a combination of Edgar Ocheing and Mohammed stopped him in his tracks. The resultant corner caused some anxious moments.
Wanga almost made it 2-0 for Stars on 69 minutes hitting the foot of the post from an acute angle. It was his last piece of action before he was replaced by Francis Ouma.
Ayuko had to be alert to punch away a freekick and minutes later he went down quickly to smother a long range shot.
Quentin Jacob’s influence in the game was growing and he whistled a shot just wide of the upright with Ayuko scrambling.
Mohammed should have made the game Safe for Stars with seven minutes to go when he slalomed his way past the Namibian goalkeeper but instead of finding a teammate, he went for goal from an impossible angle and the chance was lost.
Ouma then headed over the bar from a Mambo cross before Mambo missed a last minute freekick by Kevin Ochieng who had come on for Oboya.
Guinea play Zimbabwe in Harare on Sunday and a draw of any kind will see Stars guaranteed at least second place finish in the qualifiers.
Stars last match will be against Guinea in Conakry on October 13.