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Junior Stars fall to Uzbekistan in friendly

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Harambee Stars Under-23 skipper Joseph Okumu and his Uzbekistan counterpart Zabihil Orenboyev during the two teams’ friendly match in Uzbekistan on March 26, 2018. PHOTO/Sports.uz

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 26- A late goal from Doston Tursunov saw hosts Uzbekistan pick up a narrow 1-0 win over Kenya’s Under-23 team in a friendly match at the Istiqlal Stadium on Monday evening.

The reigning Asian Under-23 champions revenged for the 2-1 loss they suffered under the Kenyan side coached by Mathare United tactician Francis Kimanzi on Friday, scoring six minutes into stoppage time.

Kimanzi made only one change from that team that won last week, Vihiga United centre back Bernard Ochieng starting ahead of striker Chris Onyango with Joseph Okumu retaining the captaincy.

The hosts came into the tie charged to make amends from their misgivings in the first of the two friendly games, taking the game into Kenya’s half from the first minute.

However, the defence marshalled by Okumu managed to hold their own and ensure they didn’t collapse under pressure.

Uzbekistan continued with the pressure in the second half, camping in Kenya’s half and forcing teh Kenyans into tackles that resulted in dangerous set pieces, but none could trouble the backline.

From a good scoring position in the 52nd minute, Uzbekistan won a free-kick but Islam Kenjabayev drove it straight to the wall and booted the rebound way up into the stands.

From a swift counter attack, Kenya nearly broke the deadlock after 54 minutes. Bolton Omwenga broke away on the left and curled in a wonderful cross, but Piston Mutamba’s connection came up against the upright.

Ulinzi Stars midfielder Ibrahim Shambi followed it up with the goalkeeper down, but his header from the edge of the six yard box came off the crossbar.

The hosts knew they had to act fast to get a goal and Aziz Turghunbev came close when he dribbled into his favourite left foot, unleashed a dipping effort from range but keeper Timothy Odhiambo pushed it behind for a corner.

The home side kept pushing and were awarded in virtually the last minute of play when Tursunov broke into the box to head home a cross from the right.

The team now comes back home with lots of positives from the two games with the eyes fixed on next year’s African Under-23 Championships which will also act as Africa’s qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

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