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Starlets hit Malawi,keep Olympic dream alive

Mwanahalima Adam celebrates her brace against Malawi during an Olympic qualifier at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on September 1, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

MACHAKOS, Kenya, Sep 1 –Mwanahalima Adam struck a second half brace to add on to Cynthia Shilwatso’s goal to give Kenya’s Harambee Starlets a 3-0 win over Malawi to progress to the third round of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifiers with a 5-3 aggregate score.

Starlets overturned the 3-2 defeat they suffered in Blantyre on Wednesday to set up a date against either Ghana or Gabon, with Ghana leading 3-0 from the first leg played last week.

Starlets put themselves on the advantage after 19 minutes when Shilwatso struck her second in as many games with a low shot from the edge of the box after picking up a poorly defended ball.

The girls got just what they needed, an early goal to calm their nerves and put them in control. They had started the game on the front foot and before the goal had chances to break the deadlock.

As early as the fifth minute, the home girls had caused the first threat, Elizabeth Wambui striking the upright with a stinging shot after skipping past her marker on the right.

Kenya’s danger girl Mwanahalima Adam who was tightly marked the entire contest had an effort at goal in the 16th minute when a poorly defended ball landed on her path but her effort with a first time volley flew straight to the keeper.

The array of attacks by Kenya continued with Gentrix Shikangwa forcing the keeper into a good save with a curling freekick from the right.

Harambee Starlets forward Cynthia Shilwatso controls the ball against a Malawi opponent during an Olympic qualifier at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on September 1, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Wambui had a golden chance for Kenya with 10 minutes left to the break when the ball landed graciously on her path a yard off goal. When it was harder to miss the opportunity than score, the Kenyan winger skied the ball over the bar.

Malawi had been limited to few half chances and their danger girl Tabitha Chawinga was closely guarded by Kenyan skipper Dorcas Shikobe who breathed on her neck everywhere she ran.

Her sister Temwa with whom they had masterminded the first leg victory was also anonymous as the Kenyan backline keenly tracked her every move.

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In the second half, Malawi came back a stronger side and threatened Starlets from the first whistle. In the 55th minute, Madina Nguluwe came close with a freekick but the Kenyan keeper turned it behind for a corner.

Two minutes later, Tabitha had a shot come off the crossbar when she struck a freekick from distance and the Kenyan keeper did well once again to thwart Nguluwe’s effort on the rebound turning it behind for a corner.

On the opposite end, Starlets should have taken the game to comfort, but Shilwatso was denied her second of the evening when her rasping shot from inside the box came against the bar.

Harambee Starlets forward Mwanahalima Adam strides forward against a Malawi opponent during an Olympic qualifier at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on September 1, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Starlets defended in numbers as they sought to keep their slim advantage alive.

And they had a chance to increase the tally with quarter of an hour left when Substitute Janet Bundi tried her luck from distance, but once again, for the third time in the game, Kenya was denied by the upright.

However, Starlets got that much needed second goal when off a counter attack, Mwanahalima raced beyond her markers to beat the keeper one on one and seal the tie.

The pint sized forward completed her brace with two minutes to go when she controlled Corazone Aquino’s long range pass before slicing her marker down and curling the ball to the far right.

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