NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 12- Eric Johannah’s first half goal gave Harambee Stars a 1-0 win over Mozambique in a friendly match played on Saturday at the Kasarani Stadium as head coach Stanley Okumbi picked up yet another morale boosting victory.
It was a game of two halves with the hosts bossing the first half while the visitors were more imposing in the second half but Stars ensured they had the job done with a good defensive display
Kenya’s head coach Okumbi paraded a strong side to face the Mambas with Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma being preferred at left back while Anthony Akumu and skipper Victor Wanyama paired up in attack.
In attack, Okumbi went with a front three of Clifton Miheso on the left, Jesse Were on the right while Michael Olunga played through the middle and Mathare United’s Eric Johannah deployed behind him to link up the midfield and attack.
The home side started the match with a burst, Olunga and Were providing threat for the Mozambican backline. As early as the first minute, Were broke on the right and slid in a low cross, but Olunga’s touch was too weak with keeper Jose Guillego having an easy catch.
Three minutes later, it was Olunga who played provider, putting Were through with some fancy footwork but the Zesco United man’s effort from inside the box went wide.
Were had been deployed mostly on the right with Olunga and Johannah attacking from the middle.
The forward was once again provided with an opportunity after being put through by Wanyama on the right. Keeper Guillego spilled the resultant cross and managed to bounce back to block a shot from Johannah who had pounced on the loose ball.
The early pressure paid off in the 16th minute when Johannah blasted the ball home after a swift move from the back provided Clifton Miheso with the ball on the left and the Golden Arrows man did well to cut back finding Johannah well placed.
Olunga who scored Stars’ lone goal in the 1-0 win over DR Congo away early October almost made his presence count again in the 22nd minute but his header from another of Were’s crosses went wide.
Mozambique had been put under strong pressure by the home side, but they did manage to sneak in a chance in the 25th minute with Elias Pelembe dangerously flicking a header wide from a Reguialdo Faite free kick on the right.
Wanyama had been imposing as ever in the middle of the pack, dictating the tempo of the match playing in an advanced role with Akumu doing all the defensive clean up infront of the back four.
From the dressing room, the visitors came back a better side and they went on the attack from the first whistle. Four minutes after the restart, Clesio Baugue’s first time volley from the right went marginally over with the Stars’ defense caught out flat.
Five minutes later, Stars would have pulled the game to a safe distance from a beautifully executed team play, Johannah sending Were through on the right but the latter’s shot went wide.
Salimo Mustafa who had come on for Clesio Baugue was a constant threat with his pace, but his biggest undoing was a poor final delivery.
Stars again broke on the counter in the 67th minute, but Were blasted the ball over from 10 yards out after Ouma had done well on the left to beat his markers and cut back a cross.
Mozambique continued to dominate the match, but they could not get the final ball right.
Okumbi then handed a first team debut to Posta Rangers’ forward Cavin Odongo who came on for Were with Osborne Monday making a return to the team after a long time, taking Anthony Akumu’s place in midfield.
It was quite a peculiar change for Okumbi with Akumu having been one of the best performers for Kenya on the day especially helping in giving Wanyama freedom to rove and control the game. In the dying minutes, John Mark Makwatta was also introduced for Johannah.
Okumbi and Stars will now shift attention to the second friendly match against Liberia on Tuesday where he hopes to give more rookies a chance to impress.