NAIROBI, Kenya, August 3 – Harambee Stars dreams to end a decade long wait and make the African Cup of Nations finals went up in smoke after crashing out in the second round of qualification 1-0 on aggregate to Lesotho at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday.
Stars were bundled out after failing to overturn a 1-0 defeat they suffered in the first leg as visiting Lesotho held them to a goalless draw as the land locked nation joined 2013 Afcon beaten finalists Burkina Faso, Gabon and Angola in group C.
“Today was a bad day for us; we have let our fans and Kenyans at large down. We played a good game but luck was not on our side because we created many chances,” disappointed skipper, Victor Wanyama stated.
“We have let Kenyans down we are sorry, we now have to go back to the drawing board and hope to qualify in the next competition but it’s sad we have to wait for two years,” AC Ajaccio forward Dennis Oliech, his predecessor added.
Stars made five changes from the squad that lost in the first leg, with record scorer Dennis Oliech, Macdonald Mariga, Edwin Lavatsa, Peter Opiyo and Lawrence Olum starting and it was the recalled record goal scorer who spurned the first opportunity in the fourth minute when he blasted wide.
Eight minutes later Lavatsa won a free kick from the left that was well brought in by Francis Kahata but Wanyama saw his header flash inches wide over the cross bar.
The visitors responded on the other end in the 17th with Aboud Omar almost gifting Lesotho a goal after a poor clearance in the box, only for Tsepo Lekhanya who scored the only goal in Maseru to waste the open chance by blasting wide.
Lesotho were determined to seek an away goal with Lekhanya giving Omar a hard time on the left, setting up Tsepo with a through pass that his teammate failed to connect with as the as the ball rolled out for a throw in that was dealt with by Stars defence as they went to half time deadlocked.
Stars introduced South African based winger Paul Were for Lavatsa in the second half with the former AFC Leopards player changing the pace of the game.
Kenya got sniffs at goal through Oliech and defender David Ochieng but Lesotho keeper Mohali did well to deny them before Were hit the side netting.
Mariga was rested for Elmereihk foward Allan Wanga as Stars continued to pile pressure that forced Moitheri Ntobo to clear David Owino’s header off the line in the 64th.
Midfielder Peter Opiyo could have changed the dynamics of the game when he unleashed a thunderbolt eight minutes to the final whistle but Mohali punched out for a fruitless corner.
Oliech and Wanga had open chances in the dying minutes but their efforts could not change the difference as the match ended leaving Stars to fight for another day.
The group qualifiers begin on the weekend of September 6 with top two teams booking a ticket to the continental showpiece in Morocco next year.