NAIROBI, June 20 – A 72nd minute penalty by Parma midfielder MacDonald Mariga gave Harambee Stars a crucial 2-1 win over Mozambique in a group B 2010 World Cup qualifier at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani on Saturday.Gor Mahia captain Juilus Owino had given Stars the lead in the first half but Dominguez made it level after the break before Mariga’s coolly taken penalty gave Kenya her first win of the final round of the qualifiers.
The win was also particularly sweet for coach Antoine Hey as it was his first victory as a coach in Africa.
“The team was under pressure and did not play their best game but what was most important was to get a point. We now must get a result in Maputo but most importantly our fate is in our hands,” said Hey.
His Mozambique counterpart was less than gracious afterwards.
“Congratulations for your poor victory. The match was made by a mistake by the keeper and a disastrous penalty. We will square out in Maputo but am proud of my team. They came back from conceding and played well and am sure we will win back home,” said Martin Nooij.
Hey had kept the same starting eleven that lost to Nigeria on June 7 and they repaid his faith by going ahead on eight minutes.
Veteran Owino who is making a comeback in the team after along hiatus mis-hit across that deceived Mozambique keeper Marcelino loping over him and nestling into the net.
The goal lifted the Stars and they grew in stature stroking the ball around with confidence and panache.
A couple of mistakes later, Mozambique decided to cut its losses with error prone Marcelino bringing on Albino Cossa
The Mambas came back into the game and Tico Tico almost equalized on 23 minutes after a mistake by Pascal Ochieng put him through but his shot lacked power to beat Arnold Origi in the Kenyan goal.
A minute later, Dominguez tested Origi with a low shot from the edge of the area. Stars should have gone two up on 27 minutes when a cleverly worked out corner by Mariga found its way to skipper Musa Otieno but the lanky defender headed the ball straight at the keeper.
Hey made a change at halftime introducing Allan Wanga for Dennis Oliech who had had a quiet game. The change almost paid instant dividends as Wanga latched onto a left wing pass, turned his marker only to shoot over from 12 yards on 46 minutes.
Mozambique equalized on 49 minutes after another calamitous mistake by Origi who failed to collect a low cross by Paito and Dominguez tucked in the loose ball.
Stars however were sensing it would be their day and they Musa again went close on the hour mark following another well worked freekick between Mariga and John Njorgoge
Enito however forced Origi to a flying save with long ranger scorcher on 61 minutes.
Vice captain Robert Mambo thought he had given Stars the lead on 69 minutes when he headed home a Mariga freekick but he was pulled up for offside.
No matter for on 72 minutes, Stars got the winner. Austin Makacha powered forward rode two tackles before passing the ball to Mariga who was felled in the box.
The Parma man picked himself up to confidently dispatch the penalty.
The losers however had one go ad almost scored with the last kick of the game but Hagi could not turn the ball in from six yards.
Kenya is now third in the group with three points behind Tunisia and Nigeria who were scheduled to play later Saturday.