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Zanzibar hold Kenya, progress to CECAFA semis

Harambee Stars winger Ovella Ochieng vies for the ball with Zanzibar’s Issa Hidari during a CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup match at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on December 9, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

MACHAKOS, Kenya, Dec 9- Kenya’s Harambee Stars are faced with a must win tie against Tanzania on Monday if they are to retain their hopes of making it into the semi-finals of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup after being held to a 0-0 draw by Zanzibar in Machakos on Saturday.

Zanzibar became the first team to book a semi-final ticket after the draw. The result takes the islanders to seven points with one group match left, while Kenya remain second with five.

Zanzibar tackle Libya in the final match with the North Africans also having an opportunity to progress to the semis.  If they win against Zanzibar and Tanzania beats Kenya, then Libya and Zanzibar will progress to the last four while Kenya will be dumped out.

It was another frustrating afternoon for head coach Paul Put whose boys failed to score for a second consecutive match. They have only scored one goal from open play in three matches, a huge concern for the Belgian tactician.

Put made two changes to his squad, the injured Massoud Juma missing out and his place taken up by Kepha Aswani. Ovella Ochieng who came up in the second half against Libya on Thursday started ahead of Chris Oduor.

The changes saw Kenya revert to the system it used against Rwanda playing with a target-man upfront supported by three men, two with speed out wide.

The speed of Ochieng on the right and George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo on the left was the masterstroke Kenya needed to open up the Zanzibar defense.

In the fifth minute, Stars had the first opportunity at goal when Wesley Onguso’s long throw from the left dropped down on Aswani’s feet, but the striker’s shot at goal was blocked for a corner.

Harambee Stars winger Ovella Ochieng and defender Jockins Atudo fly in for a header during a CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup match against Zanzibar at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on December 9, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Kenya’s attack majored on the speed on the width and set pieces, of which throw-ins counted for much, Onguso’s prowess at swinging in the long throws exploited to the maximum. However, none of those could open up for a goal.

In the 23rd minute Aswani came close again, this time rising in the midst of Zanzibar markers to head an Ovella corner, but the effort went over. Two minutes later, Jockins Atudo had a similar effort from a Patillah Omotto cross go over.

As the game progressed, so did Zanzibar get into the match. Abdul Aziz Makame and Feisal Salum Abdallah’s partnership at the heart of midfield once again was Zanzibar’s key but the final ball when it mattered most never came through for them.

In the 32nd minute, Aswani broke away to rush to an Omotto long pass, but he was pulled down with goal in sight at the edge of the box by Abdallah Salum Kheri.

From the resultant set-piece, Omotto’s effort was saved by the keeper with the rebound falling on his path again, but his low shot hit the side-netting.