Football Football

Starlets out of Cup of Nations after Mali loss

Doreen Nabwire (third right standing) made her return to the national team for the first time since 2012. PHOTO/COURTESY
Harambee Starlets team during the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup PHOTO/COURTESY

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 23 – Harambee Starlets have been bundled out of the 2016 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations after losing their second Group B match, going down 3-1 to Mali in Limbe, Cameroon.

Kenya, who are participating in the continental showpiece for the first time ever, will play her final match against defending champions, the Super Falcons of Nigeria on Saturday.

In the earlier Group B fixture, Nigeria and Ghana settled for a 1-1 draw to see the Super Falcons lead the table on four points, same as the Black Queens who have an inferior goal difference, Mali are third on three points while Kenya are at the bottom with no point.

Cheris Avilia scored Kenya’s consolation in the 76th minute after Sebe Coulibaly opened the scoring for Mali as Bassira Toure netted a brace to complete the rout.

On paper, Kenya were considered favourites after Mali came from a 6-0 thumping by Nigeria, but things turned out differently as Starlets found themselves on the receiving end.

Head coach David Ouma made two changes from the team that lost 3-1 to Ghana in their opening match with Christine Nafula relegated to the bench for Mercy Achieng while Irene Ogutu started in defence replacing Oserian FC’s Dorcas Shikobe.

Kenya drew the first blood with Esse Akida turning two Mali defenders inside out but her final shot just missed the target by a whisker.

Starlets were good on the counter to see Corazone Aquino try a long range shot in the 27th minute but it went wide before Avilia was denied off the line by Mali captain Aminata Sacko.

Akida, who gave the Mali defence had time hit the cross bar from a corner but on the other end the Kenyan girls were punished from a set-piece after Ann Aluoch conceded a free-kick to see French based Coulibaly curve past Starlets keeper Samantha Akinyi for the opener.

The goal motivated Mali to control the game but could not add the second as they headed to the break leading 1-0.

Harambee Starlets head coach David Ouma shouts instructions from the touchline during the team's friendly match against Egypt on October 28 in Nairobi. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya
Harambee Starlets head coach David Ouma shouts instructions from the touchline during the team’s friendly match against Egypt on October 28 in Nairobi. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

The second half belonged to Mali and despite Ouma making three substitutions, that could not stop their opponents from attacking.

It was Kenya who reacted first just two minutes into the second half through danger girl Akida who had a good run on the right beating one defender but the Mali keeper did well to stop her attempt.

Mali doubled the lead in the 49th minute after Toure made good use of Starlets defence lapse to squeeze past three players and neatly finish for the second goal that sent her technical bench into jubilation.

Five minutes later, the Mali custodian thwarted Akida’s effort to claw one back after swiftly recovering to rescue Avilia’s long range shot that she had spilled.

Starlets troubles went from bad to worse when defender Wendy Achieng brought down Toure in the box, who converted the penalty to seal the win that saw Mali revive their chances of reaching the semi-finals.