NAIROBI, November 13 – Harambee Stars made a significant step towards making the 2018 FIFA World Cup group stages after stunning highly ranked Cape Verde 1-0 in the first leg of their second round pre-qualifier at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium on Friday.
Gor Mahia sensational forward, Michael Olunga, netted the lone goal in the eighth minute to see Stars head to Cape Verde with a slim advantage for the return leg four days later.
Stars head coach, Bobby Williamson was delighted with the win but maintained the tie is still open.
“We could have got two goals at-least to ease our work in the return leg. Its a slim win so the match is far from over and its going to be difficult in Cape Verde.
“I’m sure we will see a different team there but we will go with high hopes. Kenyans need to stop being negative about this team because there are young players who have huge potential and they need to be encouraged,” the Scotsman gushed after the win.
Cape Verde boss, Rui Aguas congratulated Stars for the victory saying; “It was a tough game but Kenya played very well and they deserved to win. We didn’t play well, my players were nervous and looked tired but we will see how it goes in the second leg.”
After a patient build up that saw skipper Victor Wanyama combine well with Sudan based Anthony Akumu to dominate the midfield, the hosts notched the opener when Finland based Clifton Miheso brought in a pin point cross from the left to find Olunga who rose high to head home for his third Stars goal.
Miheso then swapped with Kevin Kimani to provide the crosses on the right as the Tusker FC winger moved to the left.
The change worked in favour of the hosts with Olunga doing well to cut in for Wanyama who blasted wide from close range at the half hour mark.
Stars continued pressing with Olunga almost adding a second five minutes to the break but the Islander’s keeper Josimar Dias came off his line to deny the SportPesa Premier League runners-up top scorer.
Olunga was once again put through at the stroke of half time but his shot was blocked as the hosts held the visitors 1-0 at the interval.
Stars who entered the encounter as underdogs created opportunities in the second half but could not press the advantage.
Belgian based, Johanna Omolo wasted a chance to double the scores when he went for glory instead of setting up unmarked Wanyama who had found space unmarked at the edge of the box.
Three minutes later, Olunga missed the target despite splitting the defence before Wanyama who plies his trade at EPL side Southampton, forced Dias to tip over his long range thunderbolt.
Williamson, did his first substitution pulling out the impressive Miheso for Ulinzi Stars’ Kevin Amwayi who bulldozed the Cape Verde defence but unfortunately none of his crosses could be turned at the back of the net.
Cape Verde’s Heldon Augusto who came on for captain, Ryan Mendes brought some life to the team that has been in the past two Africa Cup of Nations (2013 and 2015) but despite threatening from the left, Stars custodian, Boniface Oluoch was up to the task.
The win came after Stars edged out minnows Mauritius 5-2 on aggregate.
Stars who missed Belgian winger Ayub Timbe, defenders Maritzburg United’s Brian Mandela and Thika United left-back, Dennis Odhiambo to injury, need a draw of any kind to progress to the group draw that will be conducted early next year.