NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 15 – Paul Were’s hugely contested second half goal gave Harambee Stars a 1-0 win over Liberia in an international friendly match at the Kasarani Stadium as the side went eight successive matches without a loss.
The Liberian players protested against the goal saying Were had scored from an offside position after the Greece based winger broke off from his markers to pick up a cheeky pass from Michael Olunga.
Nonetheless, centre referee Andrew Juma let the goal stand as Stars built on from their replica Saturday win over Mozambique at the same venu.
Head coach Stanley Okumbi made changes to the squad that played on Saturday with Tusker FC utility Osborne Monday joining skipper Victor Wanyama in midfield in place of Teddy Akumu while Aboud Omar started at left back ahead of youngster Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma.
Ayub Timbe who missed the Mozambique match due to fitness was handed a start on the right side of attack ahead of Jesse Were with Paul Were who came into the second half on Saturday manning the opposite flank, Clifton Miheso dropping to the bench.
As early as the first minute, the visitors posed the first threat with Mamelodi Sundowns forward Anthony Laffour’s low shot from the left after dancing past Jockins Atudo going straight to Boniface Oluoch’s arms.
On the opposite end, Wanyama whose scoring record for the national team isn’t as prolific as his midfield prowess should have taken Kenya ahead but he blasted an effort over.
Timbe had picked the ball on the right, evaded his marker with some fancy step overs before delivering a cross that was punched into Wanyama’s path by keeper Tommy Songo.
Stars who were using Timbe and Were’s speed on either wing to attack came close again in the 13th minute with David Owino’s tap from a Jockins Atudo cross hitting the post and Wanyama again skying the rebound.
Stars kept on the forefoot though Liberia were proving to be a hard nut to crack. They knocked again on the door, this time Michael Olunga’s tap from an Atudo cross being an easy pick for keeper Songo.
The Liberians were calm and chose to gradually build play from the back with Sundowns man Laffor and Murphy Doley providing most of the danger upfront. Doley attempted a shot from distance but it was awry going high.
Laffor’s freekick from the right in the 29th minute was flicked over for a corner by Brian Mandela with a flurry of Liberian men attacking the ball six yards out of goal.
Three minutes from the break Were flicked the ball to put Eric Johannah through but the Mathare man’s effort to get a second goal in four days for the national team was thwarted by Songo who stuck his foot out to prevent the goal bound shot.
Atudo as well tried his luck with a stinging low shot from distance but Songo punched it away. On the counter though Liberia came close with Laffor releasing Doley but the latter was brought down at the edge of the box and ref Andrew Juma had none of it.
At the start of the second half, Okumbi brought in three pairs of fresh legs, Wanyama, Atudo and Omar all coming out for Akumu, Simon Mbugua and Erick Ouma. Mbugua who has been impressive with Posta Rangers was coming in to make his national team debut.
As soon as the second period started, the hosts went on the offensive with Johannah’s swirling shot being punched away for a corner by the Liberian keeper in the 47th minute.
Five minutes later, Stars broke the deadlock with Were sliding the ball low past Songo, the Liberian defense left rooted waiting for an offside call.
On the hour mark, Timbe was pulled out and Cavin Odongo who was impressive in his 13 minute debut over the weekend was introduced in his place.
The Posta man should have crowned his moment with a goal but his connection from an Ouma cross from the left went wide.
Three minutes later, Johannah had another chance to score after cutting into his favorite right foot, but his shot went wide from the left.
With 25 minutes left, Jesse Were was introduced for Olunga and the Zesco man was introduced into his favorite central striking position, one favorable for him to break his national team drought.
As the half wore on, Liberia began to make inroads into the Kenyan half and Laffour came close to getting his side level but his shot from the right went wide after picking up a ball planted behind the defense.
Ten minutes before the final whistle, Were had a chance to ink his name on the score sheet but his effort after doing well to control a cross from Mbugua rolled wide.