KAKAMEGA, Kenya, Dec 3- Paul Put began his tenure as Harambee Stars coach positively as the Kenyans kicked off their 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup campaign with a 2-0 win over Rwanda’s Amavubi at the Bukhungu Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Massoud Juma’s penalty and Duncan Otieno’s thunderbolt both in the first half saw Kenya, winners of the title in 2013, make a statement in a fully packed Bukhungu Stadium with among the dignitaries present for the opener being former Premier Raila Odinga.
Amavubi had to finish the match with ten men after Soter Kayumba was shown red seven minutes from the restart for a second bookable offense, his second being bad-mouthing the referee while the first was for the penalty awarded to Kenya in the first half.
Stars took a 2-0 lead at the break, much deserved from Put’s men after being the most efficient upfront, creating the most dangerous of chances.
Both sides took time to settle into the match but Rwanda had an early chance after four minutes. An onrushing Eric Rutanga failed to connect with a header a cross from the right by Djabel Manishimwe, with Patrick Matasi in the Kenyan goal beaten to the ball.
In the 12th minute, Stars had the first open chance of the game, Juma releasing George ‘Blackberry’ on the left, the speedy Gor Mahia winger cutting into the box but his eventual shot was well saved by Rwandese shot stopper Eric Ndayishimiye.
Almost immediately, Stars had another chance, this time Ndayishimiye making a crucial interception of the ball with his fingers to take it away from Juma who had rushed in to meet a cross from Samuel Onyango.
Kenya, pushed by the capacity Bukhungu Stadium had began to get their rhythm into the game and they finally broke the deadlock in the 25th minute from the penalty spot.
Jockins Atudo was tagged down inside the box by Soter Kayumba as he rose in to meet a Patillah Omotto freekick and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Juma stepped up and scored, sending Ndayishimiye the wrong side.
Rwanda having gone down upped the tempo as well and they began going more into the Kenyan box, choosing to use aerial balls which were often well dealt with by the Kenyan backline or keeper Matasi.
In the 33rd minute, Abeddy Birahimire had a chance after being picked out by Justin Mico who had done well on the left to skip away from Dennis Sikhayi, but Mico could not get a shot on target under police marking from Atudo, sending his shot wide.
Four minutes on the turn, Juma had a brilliant opportunity to complete his brace when he was picked out by Whyvonne Isuza who had stolen the ball off a Rwandese defender, but the Kariobangi Sharks forward’s attempt unmarked inside the box went over.
His blushes were wiped away however a minute later and in superb fashion.
Some good movement from the Stars saw Odhiambo cross the ball from the left, Isuza setting up Otieno who took a thunderbolt from 30 yards out, leaving keeper Ndayishimiye well beaten with no chance.
It was a brilliant way to end the opening half and quite a rewarding performance for the tens of thousands of fans who had thronged the stadium.
Stars were handed an advantage seven minutes from the restart with Kayumba sent off, but no sooner had he gone off than the heavens opened, making it difficult for both sides to play on the ground.
Put made changes, Onyango coming out for Ernest Wendo, a definite change to solidify the midfield while Juma came off for Kepha Aswani.
The Nakumatt FC forward had two chances to get his name on the scoresheet as well, both fed in by Isuza, but the two shots were all blocked by Ndayishimiye from close range.