MACHAKOS, Kenya, Dec 11- Kenya’s Harambee Stars have qualified for the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup semi-finals as Group A winners after beating Tanzania 1-0 in Machakos on Monday and will pay Group B’s second placed side Burundi in Machakos on Thursday.
Kenya finished the group stage matches with eight points, one ahead of Zanzibar who will play defending champions and Group B winners Uganda Cranes in the second semi on Friday.
AFC Leopards forward Vincent Oburu repaid the faith shown in him by head coach Paul Put handing him his first ever start for the national team as he tapped home a 20th minute goal to hand Stars the win.
Put made changes to his forward line for his fourth match in charge of the team, handing Oburu a starting role as the team’s lead strikers supported on either wing by George Odhiambo and Ovella Ochieng.
Chris Oduor who started ahead of Whyvonne Isuza was handed the supporting striker’s role, playing behind Oburu. Gor Mahia midfield workhorse Ernest Wendo also started his first match for the national team, coming in the place of Duncan Otieno.
Libya’s 1-0 win over Zanzibar in the early kick off handed Kenya a confidence boost of sorts as they knew they only needed a point to get t the last four. However, the pressure was for them to win and top the group.
They should have opened the scoring five minutes into the tie when a mistake by Erasto Nyoni in his own box handed Ovellah Ochieng a chance, but the Kariobangi Sharks forward placed the ball over with only the keeper to beat.
Earlier on, Odhiambo had come close for Kenya with a low shot from the edge of the area which went wide.
Stars were dominating possession but were guilty of losing it often, the biggest culprits being Ovella on the right and Oduor who had been deployed as the support striker behind Oburu.
Ovella however made amends in the 20th minute, this time not taking too many touches. He set himself up with the first touch before crossing low into the box to an awaiting Oburu who had the simplest task of tapping the ball gone with the keeper beaten.
It was a pressure relieving goal for Kenya who had only scored one from open play prior.
Tanzania though grew in confidence after going down as they sought for an equalizer, but they couldn’t breach a watertight Kenyan backline.
In the 32nd minute defender Dennis Sikhayi almost caught Tanzania keeper Peter Manyika offguard with a long range effort which however went wide.
In the second half, there wasn’t much of action infront of goal. The best chances of the last 45 fell on Odhiambo whose first shot from the left was saved by the keeper while in his second attempt, his outstretched foot three yards off goal failed to connect to an Ochieng cross.