NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 11 – Francis Kahata’s goal 14 minutes from time off a fine Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma cross saw Kenya’s Harambee Stars register a 1-0 win over Malawi’s Flames in a friendly match at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani as Sebastien Migne’s feel good factor with the team continued.
Stars looked jaded and as save for two changes forced through injury, head coach Sebastien Migne went with the same team that played Saturday’s 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Ghana.
Michael Olunga was in line to start, but pulled out of the team entirely after the warm up after aggravating a knock he picked up on Saturday and was replaced by Zesco United’s Jesse Were.
At right back, Jockins Atudo who came in as a second half substitute for the injured Philemon Otieno continued in the same role with the Gor Mahia utility man failing to recover in time.
It was a hugely contrasting game to what was on display last Saturday against Ghana. Pace and creativity lacked with none of the two sides bearing urgency to score.
Malawi had the game’s first chance after 10 minutes, Gerald Phiri’s curling left foot freekick from range going wide with keeper Patrick Matasi un-troubled.
Kenya had to wait till the 18th minute to create their first real effort at goal. Some good team movement anchored by Ismail Gonzalez saw the midfielder pull the ball wide for Aboud Omar, but the left back’s attempt at goal with a shot from the left went over.
Almost immediately, Eric Johanna had an ambitious effort trying to catch keeper Brighton Munthali off his line, but the effort went wide with the handful fans who had attended clapping in appreciation.
Malawi came close in the 24th minute when Mhango Gabadinho beat Atudo with the ball, the youngster running into the edge of the area but his shot deflected off target for a corner that wasn’t put into good use.
Matasi was called into action on the half hour mark making a brilliant save at his near post after Richard Mbulu connected in a cross from John Banda who had raced well away on the right after playing a quick one-two with Alfred Manyoro.
At the start of the second half, Migne made changes, Were paving way for Piston Mutamba in attack while, Ouma came in for the jaded feet of Ovella Ochieng.
On the hour mark, Gonzalez paved way for Teddy Akumu in midfield as the tactician threw in more players for assessment.
Nonetheless, chances still remained few and far in between with Rafick Namwera trying twice with shots, one going over while his second, a low effort from 20 yards out went straight to keeper Matasi’s arms.
Substitute Ouma came inches close to his first ever national team goal when he rose at the edge of the six yard box but his header from an Atudo cross went inches over.
Kenya made more changes with Abdallah Hassan coming on for Johanna as Migne wanted to add more pace on the wings to float in the crosses for the lanky Mutamba to attempt and nod home.
Abdallah on the right and Ouma on the left, Kenya increased the tempo of the game and finally, the new tact bore fruit.
Fourteen minutes to time, Ouma was set up with a sweetly rolled through pass by Aboud Omar before the former Gor Mahia man swung in a brilliant low cross into the area that Kahata swept into the net after Abdallah’s first effort was blocked.
With the goal, Migne made another change, Dennis Odhiambo coming off in midfield for David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng. Stars solidified their base in defense and guarded the lone goal advantage.
Five minutes to time, Joash Onyango made a superb low tackle to deny Gabadinho who was going in one on one with Matasi inside the box. This is just a minute after on the other end, his header off an Abdallah corner went inches over.