NAIROBI, October 11 – Harambee Stars are through to the second round of the 2018 World Cup pre qualifier despite being held to a goalless draw by minnows Mauritius in the return leg played at Kasarani Stadium on Sunday.
Stars benefited from their biggest 5-2 away first leg win to book a date with Cape Verde Islands in a two legged tie to be played between November 9 and 17 with the aggregate winner entering the draw for the group qualifiers.
Head coach Bobby Williamson who had his work cut out after their biggest away win in four years is now focusing on Cape Verde match which he says needs early preparations.
“The boys didn’t play according to our expectations but the most important thing is that we are through to the next round. We are now meeting Cape Verde who are above us in the FIFA rankings and that means its going to be a tall order.
“But we will check them out, do our home work and hopefully we will get the boys organised to do the job and go through the group draw,” The Scotsman underlined after the barren draw.
Williamson made four changes from the winning squad to accommodate defenders David ‘Calabar’ Owino and Brian Mandela who both missed first leg for David Ochieng and Gor Mahia’s Harun Shakava.
Sudan’s Al-Khartoum FC midfielder Anthony Akumu and Azam forward Allan Wanga were relegated to the bench for Mathare United’s Eric Johanna and Ulinzi Stars winger Kevin Amwayi.
Stars were wasteful in the first half with Gor Mahia forward Michael Olunga fluffing three open chances that could have seen the host lead 3-0 in the first half.
Kenya had an opportunity to break the deadlock in the 10th after Mauritius goal keeper Kevin Jeallous handled his skipper, Jonathan Brue’s back pass to concerned an indirect free-kick in the box but captain, Victor Wanyama missed the chance after his shot blocked.
Olunga, found his first chance eight minutes later when Wanyama put him through with the lanky striker doing well to beat a defender but his finish was poor despite putting the ball on his favourite left foot.
Two minutes later, Olunga failed to make the amends after Johanna picked him up for the speedy forward to weave through the defence but Jeallous stood tall to save the danger with his right foot.
Mandela who turns out for South Africa’s Maritzburg United rattled the cross bar in the 34th after heading Johanna’s set piece while on the other end, Stars survived a scare after Mauritius launched a counter attack but keeper, Boniface Oluoch came off his line to deny Brue.
Olunga, missed Stars final chance to see the visitors hold the host at the breather contrast top first leg where Kenya were on the lead 2-0 after 45 minutes.
Stars launched the attack in the first five minutes of the last half but Belgian based winger, Ayub Timbe, Johanna and Wanyama failed to hit the target.
Mauritius head coach, Happe Alain introduced their first leg man of the match Andy Sophie for Jonathan Justin as Williamson withdrew wasteful Amwayi for Wanga in search for the break through.
Jeallous was at again to deny Johanna Omolo after recovering to save the Belgian based midfielder close range shot before Olunga hit the post after connecting Timbe’s corner kick.
Williamson exhausted his substitutions bringing on Nakuru All Stars John Ndirangu for Olunga whilst Ulinzi Stars forward John Nairuka came on for Timbe in the six minutes added time before the final whistle.
It was a dazzling entry for Ndirangu who earned his maiden cap in the senior team but his late strike was stopped by Jeallous who produced a man of the match performance in the second leg despite conceding five when the two sides met in the opener on Wednesday.