NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31- Stanley Okumbi’s hopes of registering first win since taking over as Harambee Stars coach went up in smoke as 10-men Kenya were held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Sudan in an international friendly match played at Kasarani Stadium on Tuesday.
Brian Mandela scored in stoppage time from Ali Abondo’s corner to save Kenya the blushes after Nazar Hamid had opened the scoring in the 24th minute.
The result saw Stars pick their second successive draw after being held to a similar scoreline by Tanzania in another build up match played on Sunday.
Gor Mahia midfielder Francis Kahata was sent off on the 90th minute for a second bookable offence.
Okumbi made wholesome changes to the team from the one that started against Tanzania with two under-20 players being handed senior team debuts.
At the heart of defense, Chemelil Sugar centre back Joseph Okumu partnered with experienced Mandela who was also handed the arm-band.
On the left, Okumbi handed Gor youngster Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma a starting berth while Kenyan Premier League top scorer Wycliffe Ochomo started upfront as he sought to replicate his 11-goal league form at the national team.
The Muhoroni Youth man had an early chance to make his first ever senior team chance count in the third minute but his effort from an Ouma cross from the left went against the crossbar with the flag already raised for offside.
Ovella Ochieng had an opportunity four minutes later when he cut in from the left but his eventual shot went wide.
The Sudanese were however patient in their build up, starting up the ball from the back and switching quickly to attacking options.
Ramadham Agab had the first effort for the Sudanese with a long range shot that however never troubled Stars keeper David Okello.
The two-pivot midfield option picked up by Okumbi never seemed to click as KCB’s Tyrus Omondi and Posta Rangers’ Joseph Mbugi failed to find the much needed chemistry.
Omondi lost the ball in midfield in the 22nd minute to see danger man Ibrahim Salah pick up but his attempt at lobbing the ball over the keeper was futile.
Two minutes later, it was Omondi’s midfield partner Joseph Mbugi who lost the ball, but it was costly this time round as Hamid intercepted to created a few yards of space infront of him and shoot low into the bottom right of Okello’s goal for the opener.
Seeing his midfield was not clicking, Okumbi was called into an early substitution, chucking off Omondi in the 33rd minute and bringing on a more attack-minded player in Kahata.
Kenya nearly conceded when Mohammed Tahir beautifully changed the ball from right to left in the 38th minute before finding Agab, who danced his way past Musa Mohammed, but Okello came to Stars’ rescue with a full stretch save to keep the scores at 1-0.
Five minutes to the breather, Stars had a chance on the break with Paul Were releasing Ovella Ochieng on the left but the Kariobangi Sharks’ attempt on goal was blocked at the edge of the box.
At the start of the second half, Okumbi introduced Spanish based Ismail Gonzalez for his first ever appearance for the Harambee Stars, taking Mbugi’s place.
Ten minutes later, Ochomo and Ovella were both pulled out for Jesse Were and Clifton Miheso respectively.
Towards the hour mark, the home side began playing more offensively and Abondo had an effort from a volley go over after being chested down by Jesse Were in the 61st minute.
Stars continued to press in search of the equalizer and a possible winner and new man Gonzalez had an effort in the 75th minute with a bouncing header from an Abondo freekick being well picked up by the Sudanese keeper.
Ouma went close to capping his wonderful day in office with a goal but his swirling set-piece in the 78th minute was wonderfully tipped over by the Sudanese keeper.
The visitors who will be travelling to Sierra Leone for the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifier this weekend managed to put up a defensive shield in the final ten minutes of the match as they wanted to hold on to a morale boosting win ahead of a difficult voyage to the West African nation.
However Mandela came into Stars rescue when he rose high to head home from Abondo’s corner to salvage a point.
Stars will now head back to camp with Okumbi having a lot on his notebook ahead of the African Nations Cup qualifier on Sunday against Congo Brazzaville.