NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 8 – Two moments of concentration lapse in either half saw Kenya’s Harambee Starlets held to a 2-2 draw by visiting Zambia at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi as their historic race to a first ever Olympic slot hit speed bumps with the second leg to play on Monday in Lusaka.
Starlets were leading 2-1 after Corazone Aquino’s goal in the 72nd minute, but no sooner had the cheers died down at the stadium than the Copper Queens leveled the tie through Rachel Kundanaji.
Grace Chanda had given the visitors a 13th minute lead before Marthe Tembo headed the ball into her own net to tie the game after 30 minutes.
Starlets will now need to win the return leg to proceed to the final round of qualification, but a high scoring draw of three or more goals would still see them through.
Not the best situation the home girls had envisioned themselves in, but they found themselves trailing after 13 minutes, a dangerous and potentially calamitous away goal.
Chanda had the easiest tasks of tapping the ball home from inside the six hardr box after keeper Annette Kundu had failed to pick out a low cross from skipper Zulu Misozi on the left.
Starlets had control of the game from the start, but a slight lapse in concentration at the back after Cynthia Shilwatso had threatened early on the opposite end with a stinger from range saw them go down to the visitors.
Just 10 minutes on the turn, Starlets should have leveled scores when Elizabeth Wambui’s brilliant ball from deep in her own half found the dangerous Mwanahalima Adam inside enemy territory.
However, with the smoothest of controls, the finish did not match the quality of the first touch as the Thika Queens forward struck the ball straight to the keeper’s arms one on one.
Left back Wincate Kaari had another opportunity minutes later this time with a freekick from good scoring range, but her left footed scorcher missed the target.
The search finally bore fruit on the half hour mark when left back Tembo headed the ball into her own goal as she tried to cut out Shilwatso’s cross from the left.
It turned out to be a full contest with Zambia’s Copper Queens clearly showing they were in Nairobi for a win, throwing as much in attack as they did in defense.
At the stroke of halftime, the visitors were inches close to a second but Vivian Nasaka made a brilliant tackle inside the box to poke the ball off Barbra Banda’s feet as she prepared to pull the trigger after dribbling her way to the edge of the six yard box.
In the second half the Zambians kept their attacking front and just three minutes in keeper Kundu took one for the team when she handled the ball outside the box after Banda had looped it goalwards off a quickly executed counter attack.
Kundu was yellow carded and from the resultant set piece, the Zambians shot over.
Starlets had a chance to take the lead in the 63rd minute but Janet Bundi’s swinger from the edge of the box off a poorly defended corner was pushed to the upright by the keeper.
The home girls went ahead in the 72nd minute when Aquino reacted fastest to tap the ball home after the keeper had spilled Wambui’s shot from range.
But, Starlets gave away the lead. Keeper Kundu spilled a harmless cross from the right and from the loose ball, a melee ensued inside the box with Kundananji having the last touch with a shot from the right that went into the net.
Starlets pushed to regain the lead without success.