NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 14 – National Under-23 football team, the Emerging Stars, started off their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualification on a powerful footing hitting Mauritius 5-0 at the Kasarani Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Goals from Johnston Omurwa, James Mazembe, Piston Mutamba, Sidney Lokale and skipper Joseph Okumu ensured Kenya put one foot into the second round of qualification ahead of the second leg of the tie to be played on November 18.
Interestingly, four of the five goals were scored from headers.
Kenya were clearly the top side in the evening encounter with the visitors not managing even a single shot at goal.
Stars had a bright start and broke the deadlock after 13 minutes, Mathare United Omurwa thumping home a header from the edge of the six yard box after rising to meet a Yusuf Mainge corner from the left.
Prior to that, Stars had good chances to break the deadlock, Ovellah Ochieng gaining some good ground on the left channel but his eventual crosses were not dangerous enough, all cut out.
In the 19th minute, skipper of the day Joseph ‘Crouch’ Okumu made an adventurous run on the left from his central defensive position, lifting his head to cite Piston Mutamba in the box but the eventual cross was cut out.
Mainge, assist provider for the opening goal tried to also get his name on the score-sheet in the 21st minute but his shot from distance went straight into the keeper’s arms.
In the 25th minute, Stars had another shot on target when Mazembe’s cross from the right found Ochieng isolated at the backpost but his attempted volley was cut out for a corner by the keeper.
Mauritius had their first sniff at goal in the 28th minute but instead of it ending up in their first shot on target it turned out to be the catalyst for conceding a second goal.
Skipper Adel Langue’s shot from distance was deflected for a corner and from the resultant set-piece, it was disaster for his side. Ochieng picked up the long corner on the right, took on a daunting run before feeding Teddy Osok who swung in a well weighted cross that Mazembe nodded home.
Stars kept the pressure, pinning Mauritius in their half and forcing them to defend nervously.
Five minutes after going two up, the home side nearly made it three but Ibrahim Shambi’s shot from inside the box was deflected for a corner after being set up nicely by Mutamba.
Some fancy step-overs from Ochieng at the edge of the box drifting in from the left saw him get some space, but his eventual shot went inches over the bar.
At the stroke of halftime, the impressive Shambi should have made it three for Kenya when Mainge’s cross from the right found him unmarked, but he couldn’t put some weight on his header, the ball ending up an easy catch for the keeper.
-Two quick goals
The heavens opened in the second half with Mutamba nodding home the third just seven minutes after the restart, rising unchallenged inside the six yard box to connect to an Ovellah Ochieng cross.
Four minutes later, substitute Sidney Lokale scored perhaps the easiest goal he would ever have, tapping home inside the box after the Mauritius keeper spilled Mainge’s shot right at his path.
Head coach Francis Kimanzi made a double change bringing on England based Henry Ochieng and Jaffery Owito for Ovella and Mutamba.
Stars continued dominating and Lokale missed a glorious opportunity in the 69th minute when Owiti’s pin-point cross from the right found him unmarked inside the box, but his tap went wide with only the keeper to beat.
But two minutes later, skipper Okumu ensured Kenya pulled the game to safer distance nodding home at the back post after Mainge’s cross on his weaker left foot found him in a favorable position.
Mauritius had a chance to draw back a level late on but skipper Langue’s shot came off the bar with keeper Brian Bwire well beaten.