NAIROBI, Kenya, November 14- A valiant effort from Harambee Stars was not enough to secure a place in the Africa Cup of Nations after they lost 3-2 to Nigeria on Saturday.A brace from Bayern Leverkusen’s Obafemi Martins and a strike from Yakubu Aiyegbeni brought the Super Eagles back from 1-0 down at half time and catapult them to next year’s FIFA World Cup at the expense of Tunisia who lost 1-0 to Mozambique in Maputo.
Dennis Oliech justified his inclusion in the Stars line up with a vintage display that included a 15th minute goal and asking questions of the visitors’ wanting defence in the first half.
Edgar Ochieng also made the most of his recall to the Stars rearguard as he formed an impressive partnership with George and Julius Owino but it was not enough to keep Shaibu Amodu’s side at bay.
The first half was all Stars who pressed the Nigerian goal with some brilliant attacking play with Victor Mugabe, Julius and Patrick Oboya probing the Eagles defence at will.
Oliech lived up to his nickname as the ‘menace’ as he acquainted himself with Eagles keeper Vincent Enyeama on more than one occasion.
Enyeama was beaten after a defensive lapse by Nigeria allowed Oliech to put his side ahead with his sixth goal of the qualifiers.
There was a scary moment for Stars fans who filed into Kasarani when the Auxerre striker went down with a head injury but was soon back on his feet.
Oliech was the centre of attention again when he had a legitimate appeal for a penalty turned down after he latched onto a through ball from Oboya and was pushed to the ground by a Nigerian defender.
The Eagles were a different team in the second half attacking with much more zest an venom.
It was Stars however who fired the first warning shot of the second period through captain Musa Otieno who unleashed a 30 metre strike that sailed just over the touchline.
Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel was the architect of Nigeria’s first goal. His cross from the near touchline found Peter Odemwingie who teed it up for Martins to make 1-1 in the 62nd minute.
Yakubu made it 2-1 three minutes later from a rebound off the post capping a period of sustained pressure.
But Stars conjured up their fighting spirit as a stunning cross from Oboya was headed in by substitute Allan Wanga to tie the game at 2-2 with ten minutes to go.
The Eagles pressed again and their efforts paid off soon after as Martins notched his second goal with two minutes later.