NAIROBI, Kenya, March 28 – Harambee Stars got their campaign for a place in 2010 World Cup off to the worst possible start losing 2-1 to Tunisia in Nairobi on Saturday.Issam Jomaa struck the winner with 18 minutes to give the Catharge Eagles three points and shatter Kenya’s hopes after the home boys had gallantly fought back from a goal down.
The result was harsh on Stars who had the bulk of possession and hit the crossbar twice but ultimately, two mistakes cost them a share of the spoils.
New Coach Anotine Hey made several changes bringing on Hillary Echesa, Pascal Ochieng and Musa Otieno to the side. Francis Ouma was also handed a starting berth with Patrick Oboya being relegated to the bench.
The boys started nervously and it was the Tunisians who took the lead on five minutes when Ochieng failed to deal with a Fahid Ben Khalfa cross and Ammar Jemal swept the ball home from ten yards to give the visitors the lead.
Stars response was immediate with Dennis Oliech heading just wide from a Macdonald Mariga dinked pass on the quarter hour mark.
The pressure was telling and Tunisian skipper Radhi Jaidi almost put the ball into his own net under pressure from Francis Ouma.
Musa Otieno who was making a return to the side for the first time since 2007 then shaved the crossbar from a corner.
Oliech and Ben Khalfa clashed heads with the latter needing lengthy treatment.
Coach Hey made a tactical switch at halftime bringing on Boniface Ambani for the ineffectual Hillary Echesa and the change galvanized the side.
The lanky striker was full of running giving the Tunisian rearguard something to think about as did Patrick Oboya’s entry to the fray.
Ambani should have done much better after being put through by Tusker’s John Njoroge who was having a great game down the left but he could not reach the pass.
Mambo then headed just over from an Oboya freekick with Kasroui beaten. The Tunisians went up the other end and almost scored with substitute Mohammed Al Gharani laying on the perfect cross but Jomaa headed wide with goalkeeper Noah Ayuko scrambling.
Stars drew level on 70 minutes through a superbly worked goal. Musa brought the ball out of defence, picked out Oboya with a great pass, Oboya’s cutback was perfect and Oliech calmly sidefooted home to bring the scores level.
Coca Cola stadium was alive with fans all on their feet but their celebrations were cut short just two minutes later.
Mambo diddled on possession and Jomaa capitalised racing through to shot powerfully past Ayuko to undo all the hardwork.
Mambo struck the crossbar with a firm header then headed just over from a corner kick but despite all the prompting, the visitors held on for a vital win.