NAIROBI, March 23 – Stanley Okumbi’s debut at the helm of national football team Harambee Stars ended up in disappointment as Kenya lost 1-0 to Guinea Bissau in their third group match of the 2017 African Cup of Nations Qualifier away in Bissau on Wednesday.
Idrissa Camara scored the lone goal in the 18th minute as the Guineans went third on the standings on four points, swapping places with Kenya who dropped bottom on a single point.
Zambia remained top of the group on five points after settling for a 1-1 draw at home against Congo Brzzaville.
Kenya’s hopes of picking the single available ticket from Group E now hangs by the thread, even as they shift their attention to the return leg this Sunday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
Playing under sweltering conditions with temperatures hitting 39 degrees at kick off, none of the two sides gave in much of a push in the opening quarter of the game.
The hosts had a half chance in the 12th minute when Soares Cassaama tried his luck with an overhead kick which went awry.
A mixture of poor marking at the back and poor communication gifted the hosts the lead in the 18th minute with Camara sneaking in behind defender Musa Mohammed on the left to head in past a dazed Stars keeper Arnold Origi.
Kenya had a chance to quickly make the amends three minutes later, but Clifton Miheso could not make much of a chance that came his way.
Eric Johannah took the ball on the right before slicing in a tricky cross from the right to see the ball evade the defense and fall graciously on Miheso, who headed bleakly for the Guinean keeper to calmly collect.
A minute later, Stars had another chance when skipper Victor Wanyama played a one-two with Johannah with the Mathare United midfielder cutting back for the Southampton midfielder whose shot was twice blocked.
The visitors continued to knock on the door of their hosts and Johannah Omollo was the next to line up a chance with his shot blocked after doing well to chest down a cross from Michael Olunga.
The lanky IF Djugardens forward had a chance by himself in the 38th minute but his header went wide.
Okumbi threw in two substitutions in quick succession on resumption with Eric Johannah paving way for 2015 Kenyan Premier League Golden Boot winner Jesse Were while debutant Patillah Omotto went off for Teddy Akumu.
Omotto had struggled to make an impression in his first ever start for the senior team with his selection ahead of the much experienced Akumu raising eyebrows.
The introduction of the Zesco FC midfielder gave skipper Wanyama more freedom moving forward and Kenya’s attacking play was much improved.
However, Okumbi’s decision to play Olunga off the wing and employing Were as the central striker again backfired with keeper Mendes not having much to do.
Akumu had an effort ten minutes after coming on but his header from Mohammed’s cross never troubled Mendes.
Good build up play from the Stars three minutes later provided another opportunity, but Mohammed’s cross was a few inches higher over Were’s head inside the box.
With the clock ticking and a goal heavily needed, Okumbi threw in his last dice, youngster Ovella Ochieng coming in to make his senior team debut in place of Miheso but that only remained to be a dream as the hosts managed to line up a water tight backline.
David ‘Calabar’ Owino had a late chance in added time with a rasping left footed shot at the edge of the box but the Guinean keeper fisted the ball away.