NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 14 – Michael Olunga inspired Harambee Stars to picking a point away after holding seven-time Africa champions Egypt 1-1 in their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier Group F opener in Alexandria.
Cliff Nyakeya came on for injured winger Ayub Timbe to change the game for Harambee Stars as he set up Olunga for the equalizer in the 67th minute.
Olunga’s goal cancelled an early lead scored by Mahmud Abdolemonem four minutes to half time after Kenya defender Erick Ouma gave a poor back-pass that was well utilized by the striker to hand Egypt the lead.
The result was in favour of Harambee Stars ahead of their second match where they welcome Togo on Monday in Nairobi while Egypt travels away to Comoros.
Comoros are on top of Group F after stunning Togo 1-0 in a match played at Togo’s backyard while Kenya and Egypt are on a point each.
In the opening half that saw the Pharaohs dominate the proceedings, Harambee Stars did well to contain the hosts, creating three glorious chances that kept Egypt keeper Mohamed Elshanawy busy.
Michael Olunga was the first to test the keeper after a well done move that saw him go past two defenders before unleashing a shot that was cleared by the shot-stopper.
This is after China based Ayub Timbe produced individual brilliance to weave past the Egypt defence, forcing the keeper Elshanawy to come off his line to block the rattling shot from the Kenyan speedy winger.
However, Kenya lost Timbe to injury after picking a knock that saw him stretched off to force Harambee Stars head coach Francis for an early substitution, replacing him with former Mathare United attacking midfielder Cliff Nyakeya.
Timbe’s withdrawal handed Egypt a sigh of relief since he was giving their defence a hard time.
Egypt handed Kenya’s custodian Ian Otieno the first test and the young keeper was up to task, coming off his line to clear the danger from Husseim Ali Hassan who was set up for a one-on-one in the 27th minute.
Three minute later, Egypt could have broken the deadlock at the half hour mark when they were awarded a free-kick just at the edge of the box after Ahmed Fathy was fouled by Erick Ouma. They squandered the opportunity with the freekick being blocked by the well-organized Kenyan defence.
In the 35th minute, it was Kenya’s turn to break off when Ouma set-up Erick Johana who went for a cracker that unfortunately missed the target, going off the bar. Three minutes later, he was at it again, unleashing a long range shot that went wide.
In the 40th minute, Kenya got a glorious chance when Egypt defender handled Nyakeya’s ball at the edge of the box for a set-piece that saw Olunga fluff the chance after blazing the ball over.
Egypt responded with a goal, maximizing of Ouma’s poor back-pass that was picked by Abdolemonem who shot the ball that was met by Ian Otieno but the clear was not strong as the ball was blocked by the Egypt striker who went on to slam the ball past an empty net.
Kimanzi’s pep talk at the break motivated Stars, who surged forward to be the better side in the second half.
Harambee Stars could have leveled the scores 10 minutes into the second half but lady luck was not on their side as Ouma did well to speed off the left flank to swing in a cross that was connected by Olunga but the shot was blocked by the Egypt defence.
However, in the 67th minute Kenya restored parity after the Egypt defence poorly cleared the ball that was well shielded by Nyakeya who did well to fight for the ball and lay it off to Olunga who found space to slam the ball home with his powerful left boot.
Kenya survived in the dying minutes after Joseph Okumu cleared the ball off the line following Ian Otieno’s clumsy handling of the ball that slid his hands.