NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 8 – Ten-man Harambee Stars produced an impressive result on Saturday evening beating four-time African Champions Ghana by 1-0 at the Kasarani Stadium to revive their hopes of qualifying to next year’s African Cup of Nations.
Defender Nicholas Opoku’s own goal in the 41st minute proved the difference as Kenya upset the form books and did what most thought pre-match was a huge mission impossible.
The win was impressive for Kenya who played most of the second half one man down following Joach Onyango’s straight red card on a tackle from behind.
More so, head coach Sebastien Migne turned a few heads with his selection for the starting team.
Gor Mahia’s Joash Onyango was paired at the heart of defense with captain of the day Musa Mohammed while Philemon Otieno, having starred for Gor at right back was thrown into the same position for the national team.
In midfield, Migne paired Ismail Gonzalez with Dennis Odhiambo at the expense of Anthony Akumu who was widely expected to start in the absence of skipper Victor Wanyama with Johannah Omollo not even on the match day 18.
Francis Kahata and Ovellah Ochieng started out wide as Michael Olunga led the attack, supported by Eric Johannah.
Ovellah was lively in the opening exchanges and in the fifth minute he tested Ghana keeper Richard Ofori with a stinging shot from the right after his speed created a clear path into the box.
Ghana were taking a calm approach into the match, choosing to keep possession and move the ball from width to width anchored in midfield by Thomas Partey and Ebenezer Ofori.
Their first foray at goal was in the 13th minute when Majeed Waris’s shot from the right after being put through by Edwin Gyasi went inches wide with keeper Patrick Matasi left fuming at his defense.
Waris was again asking the questions for Ghana and in the 19th minute he failed to put in some power in his header when he was cited unmarked at the edge of the six yard box by a cross from Andy Yiafdom.
A few nervous moments for the Kenyan fans never lacked especially with some missed passes in midfield from Gonzalez, but the boys had done just but enough to contain the five-time African champions.
Christian Atsu who had tried to exert his authority on either wing with minimal success had a chance in the 27th minute when he ran off Philemon Otieno on the left but his shot was well collected by an alert Matasi.
On the other end, Gonzalez chested down a loose clearance by the Ghanaians but his attempt on the volley was inches wide with keeper Ofori caught flat footed.
Kenya’s main striker Olunga had been closely guarded by skipper Daniel Amartey who tracked his every move and went toe to toe whenever he had a share of the ball.
On the half hour mark, Olunga pulled a trick off the bag when he received a pass from Dennis Odhiambo, controlled it on his left but turned to his weaker right leaving Amartey in his wake, but the shot went wide.
In the 34th minute, Dennis Odhiambo came close when his powerful header off a Johannah corner went wide while six minutes later, Johannah’s attempt with a shot from range had the keeper working at full stretch.
But just a minute later, the goal finally came when under pressure from Olunga, Opoku turned the ball into his own net as he tried to defend a low cross with pace and power from Johannah.
At the start of the second half, Ghana made changes, Gyassi making way for Hassan Dwamenah. Kenya also made a forced change with right back Otieno coming off for Jockins Atudo after picking an ankle injury in the first half.
Ghana had started on the front foot and after eight minutes, Afriyeh Aquah had a chance off a Daniel Opare corner, but he headed it across the face of goal from the backpost.
Things went south for the hosts on the hour mark when Joash Onyango was shown a straight red by referee Janny Sikazwe after a tackle on Warris as the last man in defense.
In response, coach Migne pulled out forward Johannah for defender David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng who slotted straight into centre back.