VALENCIA, Spain, Aug 4- Harambee Starlets’ impressive run at the COTIF invitational women football tournament came to an end in the semi-final after losing to hosts Real Betis 2-0 on Wednesday night.
Starlets had hoped to jump yet another hurdle after beating Portuguese champions Benfica 3-0 in the opening game and tournament favorites Espanyol 3-1 in their second match.
However, a determined, tactical and resilient Betis side managed to quash their dreams.
The Spanish side, just recently promoted from the second tier (Segunda B) into the Premier League were dominant in most of the match as they showed their steel despite finishing second in their group.
They were wary of the impressive Kenyan side, making their debut in the tournament and having topped Group B. Their biggest headache was getting Kenya’s top goal poacher Esse Akida off the game knowing she would single handedly destroy them as she already has five goals in the tournament.
The Spedag forward showed some of her skill early in the match just after 20 minutes, running through on goal but her effort went wide.
The Spanish side came to life in the second half, having made a massive five changes to their first half team and Kenyan keeper Vivian Akinyi was forced to be on toes, keeping out attacks from the hosts.
Betis forward Rosita was the main threat going forward and she forced Akinyi into a save with her heel after stringing together a nice move from midfield.
The impressive midfielder then teed up team mate Paula Moreno, but the latter’s shot went wide with Akinyi having covered her goal well. She however made amends in the 65th minute with a fierce shot from the edge of the box that looped over Akinyi.
Going down for the first time in the tournament, David Ouma’s girls launched attacks to try and get back into the game, but Betis responded by on counters and opening up the field.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, Betis finished up the game with Maria Bernal finishing from inside the box. Despite a late surge by the Kenyans, Betis managed to defend well and progress to the final. They will now meet the Venezuelan national team who beat Espanyol in the other semi-final.
Starlets play Espanyol, for the second time in the third and fourth place play off on Thursday night.
18 Vivian Akinyi; 3 Irene Ogutu, 4 Mary Kinuthia, 5 Doreen Shikobe, 6 Christine Nafula, 8 Ann Aluoch (7 Avilia, 41), 9 Nedy Atieno, 10 Carolyne Anyango (17 Corazone Aquino 41), 14 Esse Akida, 15 Wendy Achieng(23 Doris Anyango 48) y 19 Elisabeth Ambogo.