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Matasi the hero as Kenya reclaims CECAFA title

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Harambee Stars players celebrate after winning the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

MACHAKOS, Kenya, Dec 17- Goalkeeper Patrick Matasi was the hero saving three spot-kicks as Kenya beat Zanzibar 3-2 on post match penalties to reclaim teh CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup title in a tense final at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Sunday afternoon.

Matasi saved from Mohammed Issa Juma, Adeyum Seif and Khamis Makame as Kenya reclaimed the title, winning it for the seventh time.

Kenya scored their penalties through Jockins Atudo, Wesley Onguso and Samuel Onyango while Duncan Otieno missed.

The game was forced into penalties after a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes. In the regular 90, Zanzibar equalized in the 88th minute to end the tie at 1-1.

Twice, Kenya dropped the pt at the doorstep. They had the advantage but a lapse in concentration cost them the prize.

After a period of sustained pressure from Zanzibar, Kenya’s backline which had held its own was breached for the first time in the tournament two minutes from time when Khamis Makame tapped unmarked from a Hajji Mwinyi cross in the 88th minute.

In the first period of added time, Massoud Juma gave Kenya what looked like a win in the 98th minute, but Makame struck his brace two minutes later to restore parity and hope for Zanzibar.

The win which comes after a four year wait sees Belgian tactician Paul Put start off his tenure on a positive note, winning the tournament in his first attempt, setting himself up nicely for the rest of his two years in the country.

With the win, Harambee Stars players are now assured of at least Sh180,000 as part of the winner’s bonus announced on Saturday by Football Kenya Federation boss Nick Mwendwa.

Harambee Stars captain Musa Mohammed receives the winner’s cheque from the CECAFA president as Deputy President of Kenya William Ryto looks on. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

They were also handed an instant cash reward from deputy president William Ruto who also promised them Sh5mn more on Monday.

Put made two changes in his squad, Kepha Aswani starting up as the lone striker ahead of the injured Vincent Oburu while in midfield, Duncan Otieno who played at centre back in the semi-final against Burundi slotted back into midfield ahead of Ernest Wendo.

Kenya had the best of starts in the match and just nine minutes in, they had taken the lead.

Ovelah stepped up from the freekick after Whyvonne Isuza’s forward run had been stopped by an infringement from Abdul Aziz Makame and he curled the ball over the wall past a dazed Zanzibar keeper.

Harambee Stars players celebrate Ovella Ochieng’s first half goal. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Zanzibar’s day was to turn from bad to worse when Makame, arguably their best player in the tournament was stretchered out injured after 24 minutes following in earlier clash of knees with Aswani inside the box.

In his place, head coach Suleiman Hemed brought in Feisal Salum Abdallah who had started on the bench despite having been a regular starter for the islanders throughout the tournament.

As the game progressed, Zanzibar started knocking their way into the game, keeping possession as has been their tradition and spraying the ball across the pitch. However, they could not get that killer pass to open up a chance at goal as Kenya’s defense remained astute.

Zanzibar’s keeper Mohammed Abdulrahman almost gifted Ovellah his second goal of the afternoon when he spilled a cross from the winger as he picked it up at his near post.

Zanzibar’s first chance at goal came five minutes from halftime when leftback Hajji Mwinyi curled a freekick from the edge of the box a few yards over from a good scoring position.

Zanzibar left back Hajji Mwinyi vies for the ball with Harambee Stars right back Dennis Sikhayi during a CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup match at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on December 17, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Two minutes from later Seif Abdallah wasted a glorious opportunity when Suleiman Khamis’s cross from the left found him unmarked at the backpost but his header went straight to keeper Patrick Matasi.

Stars had shouts for a penalty drowned at the stroke of halftime when Wesley Onguso’s corner from the right was handled inside the box.

In the second half, Zanzibar came back a stronger outfit and they pushed the hosts into defending deep in their own half. In the 51st minute, Mudathir Yahya had an attempt from a freekick 25 yards out but his effort was awry, flying way over.

Zanzibar made their second change, Seif Abdallah coming in for Adeyum Ahmed, an attacking change by Hemed seeking to add some more punch and pace into the forward line.

Kenya then made their first with Aswani who had all game been kept at bay by Zanzibar centre back Abdallah Salum Kheri, the Nakumatt FC forward being rested for Massoud Juma who was making a return to the team after injury.

Zanzibar kept on pushing but Stars repulsed.

However, they would let loose just two minutes to the final whistle when they opened up on the left, Mwinyi winning possession then slapping low with Hamissi Musa tapping unmarked.

The game was forced into extra time and with Kenya having played in a similar tie just two days ago, the toll on the players was always waiting.

Zanzibar Salum Feisal Abdallah goes down under a challenge from Kenya’s Patillah Omotto as Whyvonne Isuza watches on during a CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup match at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on December 17, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

However, Put’s men came back with more energy, pushing from the first whistle as they seemed determined to ensure the trophy remained home. Eight minutes after the restart, they went ahead, much thanks to a gift from the Zanzibar keeper.

An attempt at a goalkick was short with Massoud intercepting after Mudathir Yahya had attempted to salvage the situation. Seemingly struggling to run from his injured ankle, the Kariobangi Sharks forward powered into the box before slamming home.

But the joy was short-lived. An error at the back from skipper Musa Mohammed whose attempt at clearing Suleiman Kassim’s cross from the right went awry saw Makame pick the ball and slam it past Matasi.

Zanzibar, knowing they were better off heading to penalties than attempting an all out attack stuck to defensive duties and successfully safeguarded the 2-2 score-line.

However, things didn’t go their way on penalties.

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