KAMPALA, Uganda, November 26- In the end, it was a comfortable 2-0 victory for besieged Harambee Stars over Southern Sudan as they got their 2012 CECAFA Tusker Cup back on track despite toiling hard against much obliging opponents.
David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng and inspired substitute Clifton Miheso struck on either side of the halves for Stars who will be wondering how they did not post a cricket score line against the Walhya Antelopes who were there from the taking on Tuesday.
On the balance of chances created, this should have been a rout for the Kenyans as they missed the opportunity to bolster their goal difference which could come to play when they finish their Group A fixtures against Ethiopia Friday having lost 1-0 to hosts Uganda last Saturday.
Stand in coach, James Nandwa, cut a frustrated figure on the touch line as his team conspired to spun chance after chance with Tusker FC winger, Paul Were and AFC Leopards forward, Mike Baraza who had ironically been brought on to bolster the attack the major culprits.
Describing the match as a ‘do or die’ affair before kick-off, Nandwa saw his team launch into their opponents with urgency, knowing defeat would effectively end their run at the group stages at a soggy Mandela Stadium in Nambole.
Were was causing Sudanese right back Zachary Nani untold misery down the left frank and his run from the game that was re-started after the initial kick-off went awry released Baraza in the second minute for the first chance.
The Leopards forward set up Sofapaka midfielder, Humphrey Mieno, deployed just behind the striker and he blazed over and five minutes later, it was the turn for Kevin Omondi and Anthony Kimani to fluff their lines with the Sudanese defence in knots from another Baraza delivery from the right.
Amid the chaos, Ochieng, whose nickname translates to flames in Swahili, rose to power a downward bouncing header past Juma Janeiro from a corner gained after another Were dash upfront was turned away by Nasio with 13 minutes gone for a deserved lead.
With his tail up, the Tusker FC player tried his luck from range and almost caught out Janeiro after a powerful run down the middle barely three minutes after netting his first goal for Stars.
On the opposite end, skipper Leon Khamis attempted to stem the tide by taking the game to the Kenyans and was close to getting his reward in the 20th when he skied an effort over the bar as keeper Duncan Ochieng stood tall.
That shook the Kenyans to pour forth in search of a second only for Were (twice), Baraza and Omondi to take turns to squander four clear-cut scoring chances, the first which saw a comical tangle between the Tusker and Leopards men as the sides went to the break with Stars enjoying a slim advantage.
In between, the Sudanese captain almost found his teammate Martin Khamis with a low delivery from the box in the 32nd that exposed the Kenyan back line but his sliding teammate could not connect for the finish. They were playing in only their fourth international match after gaining independence from their northern neighbours.
Come the second half, Nandwa’s charges picked up from where they left, with Baraza spurning yet another chance as the coach brought on striker, Edwin Lavatsa (Gor Mahia) for Kimani to stem the rot two minutes in.
Sudan responded by hauling off their captain for Justin Joseph as their coach sought to stem the growing influence of Mieno in the midfield on 55.
A minute later, Nandwa had enough of Were’s profligacy after the Tusker player shot wide when in a good position to score and Miheso was introduced.
That proved to be the inspiration as his shot from outside the box on 68 minutes squirmed past Janeiro and into the net for Kenya’s second and eventual game clincher as the ball bounced awkwardly in front of the Sudanese custodian who could only help it past him.
There was still time for Stars to sustain their wastefulness in front of goal as the game came to a close but at the final whistle, they had done enough, just enough to keep their 2012 CECAFA run on course.
Harambee Stars starting XI – Duncan Ochieng, Anthony Kimani (Mathare United), Abdalla Juma, Jockins Atudo, David Owino, David Ochieng, Anthony Kimani (Sofapaka), Paul Were, Kevin Omondi, Humphrey Mieno, Mike Baraza
Subs; Martin Musalia, Bernard Mang’oli, Clifton Miheso, Enock Agwanda, Victor Ochieng’, Patilla Omoto, Rama Salim, Edwin Lavatsa, Thomas Wanyama