NAIROBI, Kenya, December 12 – Harambee Stars rounded off Kenya’s 50th birthday in fine style by breaking a decade old duck and ensuring the GOtv Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup remains here with captain Allan Wanga rising to the occasion with a brace for a 2-0 final win over Sudan defying torrential rainfall that fell over the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on Saturday.
Having come close last year in Kampala, Uganda when they fell to the hosts at the final hurdle, Wanga ensured the fans who braved the elements went home to complete the country’s Jubilee celebrations by ensuring Kenya laid her hands on the regional trophy for the first time since 2002.
It did not matter that the decider, thanks to the ineptitude of the organisers, saw its kick-off delayed after Sudan were held at their hotel as they prepared to leave for the showpiece over unpaid bills but the Local Organising Committee settled the matter to enable the match start At 6.30pm.
Stars Belgian head coach, Adel Amrouche who bagged his maiden major trophy with the side following his appointment in February, immediately declared he would retain the winning squad for upcoming assignments after seeing the side go through all games unbeaten and without conceding for the entire tournament despite lacking the flair.
“I told my players to give their best since this is the right way we could have rewarded the Kenyan people who are marking their 50th anniversary as a nation.
“Everything worked according to our plan and I’m so happy with the boys, we are now focused to preparing this team for the African Cup of Nations qualifiers,” Amrouche added.
Amrouche, retaining the same side that sealed a slot in the final, saw his boys start on fire, laying siege on the Sudanese half as deposed skipper Francis Kahata sent in a cross in the second minute, but Gor Mahia striker Edwin Lavatsa fired wide.
In the 12th, Teddy Akumu, could have opened the scores but his header off a Kahata corner missed the target with the goal at his mercy.
Kenya continued to take advantage of the porous Sudan defense, with Abuod Omar bringing in a cross that found Wanga who sent it goal-wards but keeper Abdelrahman Ali cleared the ball with his left foot.
Kahata had a chance to record his first goal in the tournament after breaking through the Sudan defense, but his strike did not bother Abdelrahman.
Home keeper Duncan Ochieng who had an anonymous outing thus far was forced to earn his corn when he repelled Nadir Eltayed’s long range shot to deny Sudan an opener in the 28th.
Abdelrahman was then forced to save Wanga’s poor shot in the box before denying midfielder Clifton Miheso three minutes later with the match getting into gear.
With the crowd getting anxious, Kenya’s pressure finally paid off when Wanga, given the armband after the first match to get his confidence back, rose to head home a David Owino cross in the 35th to calm the host’s nerves and send the fans into cheer, as the net bulged for the opening goal.
Azam defender Jockins Atudo could have taken his goal tally to four with his powerful shot that forced Abdelrahman to spill the ball but he recovered quickly to deny him on the rebound and soon after, centre referee Wiish Yabarow, from Somalia whistled for half time.
After the breather Kenya who have been cautious thus far in the tournament, pressed on to increase the advantage with Peter Opiyo trying Abdelrahman with his long range shot which went wide. Two minutes later, Ismail Elsidding could have equalised, but Ochieng was at the right position to avert the danger with a composed save.
Tournament top scorer Salah Ibrahim, got a fine chance in the 60th after penetrating the Kenyan defense, but Ochieng again came to the rescue to enhance his reputation with his critics singling him out for lack of command at times in the box.
Lavatsa who was in bubbling form in the game, received a pass from Opiyo, to unleash a cracker that hit the goal post.
Wanga who was voted the man of the match, notched his brace in the 69th after connecting James Situma’s cross from the left wing to send fans into delirium as they sensed an end to all the hurt.
Amrouche, brought in all his substitutions replacing Wanga for Noah Wafula, Miheso for South Africa based David Gateri and Paul Kiongera for Kahata.
As the subs found their feet, it was Salah who threatened to halve the deficit but again, Ochieng stood tall and the game petered out as a procession as Kenya were crowned champions for the ordained result.
Kenya received Sh5.6m (USD 64,741.60) prize money while Sudan took home Sh2.5m (USD 28,902) as the Chipolopolo of Zambia who settled for bronze after beating Tanzania in the play-off pocketing Ksh600,000 (USD6932.40).
Additionally, Stars were rewarded with Sh2m (USD23,122) by Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko.
In the third place play-off, guest team Zambia beat the Kilimanjaro stars of Tanzania 6-5 on post match penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
The teams went into the half-time break on a barren draw, with Mbwana Samata and Ronald Kampamba impressing for Tanzania through the 45 minutes.
The second half started with each side seeking an early goal and it went the way of Chipolopolo with Ronald Kampamba finding the back of the net on the 51st minute.
TP Mazembe forward Mbwana Samata equalized 13 minutes later through a brilliant left shot to see normal time close at 1-1.
The first set of penalties ended on a 4-4 draw, with Athuman Chanogo and Justin missing for Tanzania.
This led to the sudden death spot-kicks, which saw Ngasa, captain Kelvin Yondani waste their kicks while Kondwani Mtonga missed his, only for Kabaso Chanogo to convert his penalty to grant the Chipolopolo victory.