NAIROBI, Kenya, May 29 – After ‘customary’ stormy preparations, Harambee Stars seek to avoid the embarrassment of preliminary round elimination from the 2015 Africa Nations Cup when they face Comoros away in their return leg in Moroni on Friday.
Stars carry a slim 1-0 advantage to the clash but the islanders cannot be underrated after giving Kenya a hard time in their home turf a fortnight ago.
It took Belgium’s Lommel United midfielder Johanna Omolo’s thunderbolt in the 34th minute to separate the two sides in a game France AC Ajaccio’s forward Dennis Oliech spurned the chance to double the advantage from close range chance in the second half.
In the lead up to the second leg, the international career of the country’s record goal scorer looks all but over after he fell out with head coach, Adel Amrouche on disciplinary grounds that led his dishonourable dismissal from the starting XI.
There was no place for him either in the travelling party as the Belgian tactician forcefully came down on the star player for the second time since his appointment after he axed him from the squad last June.
It’s hard to imagine a Stars’ squad without Oliech, the striking lynchpin of the side for 12 years but Amrouche is hell bent on moving the side forward although he would have done without the disruption caused by the errant forward.
Both teams are on a mission to secure passage for the second round and retain hope to progress further and feature in Group C of the final qualifiers that features 2013 Afcon runners-up Burkina Faso, Gabon and Angola.
Having hard a taste of the obdurate islanders, Amrouche is likely to set up his team to sit on their first leg need and capitalise on breakaway chances of set play opportunities.
Comoros on the other hand, showed glimpses they could cause trouble despite their lowly 184th world ranking and home advantage will be inspiration to cause an upset.
Stars will rely on the fortitude of their captain and English Premier League side, Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama, 22 and his elder brother Macdonald Mariga who plies his trade at Serie A giants Inter Milan.
“We are expecting a tough match but we will work hard to come home with positive results.
“Comoros are a good team and they know how we play so we will go attacking because if we defend, they might score and equalise or even go ahead that’s why we want to score more goals to be sure of progressing to the next round,” the skipper underlined.
“Every player’s dream here is to qualify for Afcon since its long time we were there; we will take one match at a time and hope to give our best,” he added before they departed for Moroni.
Comoros are banking on English Championship side Millwall midfielder and captain Nadjim Abdou to drive them to what would rank as their biggest achievement in football- toppling a side that has made five Afcon appearances.
“We were not as good as we wanted to be but hopefully we will play better in the return fixture. All in all we have another 90 minutes to play for in Moroni and that is our best opportunity to seal the game,” the Comoros skipper said after the first leg in Nairobi.
Besides Oliech, Amrouche has axed three other players involved in the opening tie with little known Geoffrey Kakata who plies his trade for domestic league side KRA slotting to fill in the record scorer’s huge boots.
The arrival of Norway based custodian Arnold Origi, who missed the first leg due to engagements with his Lillestrom side, is a major boost to the team that forced the Belgian to axe local side AFC Leopards keeper Wycliffe Kasaya.
KF Tirana midfielder Francis Kahata who watched the first leg from the terraces was included in the travelling party of 19, stepping in for Oman Based Jamal Mohammed who was ruled out by illness whilst domestic champions, Gor Mahia, left back Musa Mohammed, made the team at the expense of his team mate and midfielder Anthony Akumu.
Comoros will be lifted by the return of their notable players including French ligue 2 AS Nancy midfielder Fouad Rachid who was unavailable in the first leg due to commitments with his club.
Forwards Soule Mohammed and Fouad Bachirou who squandered chances will be leading the goal hunt for the hosts.
Amouche charges will be looking to improve on their performance after bonding for two weeks compared to the first match where they had less than two days to train together after the late arrival of foreign based players.
The Belgian will likely retain most of his first XI with Origi starting in goal, David Owino on full-back right with Aboud Omar manning the left. USA based Lawrence Olum and David Ochieng are probable centre halves.
The midfield will be anchored by Wanyama, Mariga whose due a start after impressing from the bench in Nairobi, Omolo, Genk’s Ayub Timbe and Kahata.
MC Alger forward Edwin Lavatsa and Allan Wanga will likely lead the forward line.
The winner of the tie has to wait for Sunday to establish their second round opponents when Lesotho welcome Liberia to Maseru trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Monrovia.