NAIROBI, Kenya, February 29- AFC Leopards striker, Allan Wanga was the toast of his nation when he thumped in the winning goal in Harambee Stars 2-1 victory over Togo to hand Kenya a slim advantage in their 2013 Africa Nations Cup qualifier.
Wanga, who marked his return to the national side after two years capitalised on a defensive lapse to seal the match with a stinging shot in the 65th minute after James Situma’s opener had been cancelled out by Razak Boukari.
“It feels great since the country was expecting to get a great result. We played according to our coach strategy and it worked well for us,” Wanga who dedicated his wonder strike to his wife and kid said after the Wednesday evening clash.
His well taken effort decided a match that the hosts could have won by mile against a jaded Togolese side who lacked their star striker, Tottenham Hotspurs forward Emmanuel Adebayor.
After a cagey opening quarter of an hour, Kenya burst to life when Glasgow Celtic midfielder, Victor Mugubi saw his shot from range fly just wide of keeper Mawugbe Atsu’s crossbar.
Togo raced to the other end and Prince Segbefia fed Serge Gakpe who shot tamely at Boniface Oluoch with the goal at his mercy. From then on, the hosts who were playing to some 20,000 fans at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium took total control.
In the 18th, the Sparrow Hawks almost gifted Stars the lead when an attempted clearance by Dare Nibombe beat his keeper but rested in the net over the crossbar and six minutes later, the hosts took a deserved lead.
Titus Mulama swung in a corner from the right and defender Situma was at hand to thump a precise header past Atsu for the opener.
On the half hour mark, Stars had a legitimate looking goal by midfielder Dennis Odhiambo curiously ruled out by Mauritius referee Seechurn Rajindra for an infringement on the Togolese keeper.
Situma almost got his second from another well worked corner kick from Mulama before AJ Auxerre striker and captain, Dennis Oliech wasted another scoring opportunity.
On their next foray to the Stars goal, Togo got a free kick in the 33rd and Gakpe came close to finding the net after Oluoch fumbled the cross and four minutes later, Atsu, the man who kept Togo in the game made a double save from an Oliech shot from range and the subsequent follow-up from Mulama.
Three minutes to half-time, the sides were level against the balance of play when Boukari headed in after Oluoch failed to claim a floated free-kick to the box and there was time for Mugubi to force Atsu to another fine save 60 seconds to the break from a fierce shot from the edge of the area.
In the 49th, Oliech sent in a crashing delivery from the edge of the area following a foul that was deflected inches wide of the Togolese right post before Atsu was booked for time wasting as he sought to but his beleaguered side a breather.
The captain sent in another dangerous free-kick in the hour mark that brought the crowd back to song as Stars swatted the Sparrow Hawks who played with everyone behind the ball.
Five minutes later, Wanga sent the crowd that included Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister, Raila Odinga to frenzy.
It proved to be the pivotal moment as Stars gained the slender advantage ahead of the second leg in Lome in June where the aggregate winner will advance to the final knock-out qualifiers for the South Africa Nations Cup.
“It’s an important victory for us at home with the 90 percent of the team we put together in November. They are showing some development and they have confidence going and I’m very impressed we showed character against a strong opponent.
“The goal that was ruled out was 100 percent a goal. Those are the kind of goals we work so hard for, the execution was perfect, they would have rather ruled out the winning goal from Allan than the one we worked for,” Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi said.