MACHAKOS, Kenya, May 25- Wonder Nhleko stepped off the bench to score the only goal as Swaziland beat Kenya’s Harambee Stars 1-0 in a friendly match at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos to see Frenchman Sebastien Migne start his tenure as head coach on a losing note.
The home side will have only themselves to blame after controlling much of the possession, but couldn’t make it count for goals as they missed several chances including two in the second half that came off the crossbar.
Nhleko’s low shot in the 79th minute unmarked inside the box was all the Swazis needed to pick the morale boosting win as they gear up for the COSAFA Cup.
Migne in his first full match in charge handed first team debuts to several new players with AFC Leopards youngster Mike Kibwage starting at the heart of defense alongside Gor Mahia’s Joash Onyango.
Another debutant was Gor’s utility player Philemon Otieno who started on the right side of midfield with KF Tirana’s Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma returning to the national team fold starting at left back.
In an opening half of very few open scoring opportunities, it was the home side who had the best chance in the 33rd minute when Ovella Ochieng was picked out through on goal by Whyvonne Isuza.
However, the Kariobangi Sharks forward’s attempt to curl the ball into the far left was futile as the Swazi keeper Sandanezwe Mathabela made a great one-handed save to thwart the effort.
Swaziland’s Lindo Mkhonta almost turned the ball into his own net early in the 10th minute as he tried to cut off Isuza’s cross, but luckily his keeper was well placed to pick out the ball.
On the opposite end, Felix Bendenhorst missed a sitter for Swaziland when Barry Steenkamp’s cross from the left found him unmarked inside the box, but he could not get a meaningful touch on the ball.
In the 22nd minute Kibwage almost gifted Swaziland with a goal when under no much pressure lost the ball to Steenkamp, the Swazi winger racing into the box, but keeper Boniface Oluoch was fast enough off his line to narrow the angle.
Stars bossed possession, but nonetheless didn’t have much to brag for in the duration they had the ball.
At the start of the second half Migne made a tactical switch, Kibwage coming off for Piston Mutamba. The change saw Atudo move into the heart of defense while Otieno switched to right back from where he has flourished for Gor.
Mutamba went straight into the target man position while Ovella who was used in that position in the opening half was pulled out wide.
Mutamba got straight into action and eight minutes after coming on, he showed his killer instinct with a low shot from the edge of the box which went inches wide.
On the opposite end, a lapse in defense saw Steenkamp break through behind the defense and tried to chip the ball over Boniface Oluoch, but the keeper was alert and read the attempt early, managing to pick up.
Migne made another change with Isuza coming off for Humphrey Mieno.
Stars continued with their pressure and came inches close in the 6th minute when Ovella’s freekick from the edge of the area came off the crossbar with the keeper well beaten.
Oluoch was called into action almost immediately with Tony Tsabedze shooting from range, Oluoch saving the effort though it took an awkward bounce a few centimeters off the target.
Swaziland pressed more than they did in the first half and their pressure finally bore fruit 11 minutes from time when Nhleko picked the ball unmarked inside the box from a Steenkamp cross, shooting low past Oluoch.
After going down, Migne made other changes with Bolton Omwenga coming on for Kahata, a change that saw Omwenga drop down to left back while Ouma moved upfield.
Stars came close to the equalizer when Mutamba’s strong header came off the crossbar from an Omwenga cross. The home side pressed for the equalizer but Swaziland defended with grit, ensuring they left with victory.