KAMPALA, Uganda, Dec 8 – Harambee Stars started their CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup title defense with a hard earned 1-0 victory over Tanzania in their Group B opening match at the Lugogo Complex on Sunday evening.
Bandari FC forward Abdallah Hassan scored the lone goal in the fourth minute as Stars rose to the summit of the group with maximum points after Sudan and Zanzibar shared spoils in the first match in a 1-1 draw.
Coach Francis Kimanzi handed first team debuts to several of his players. Anthony Wambani who has been playing his trade in the Swedish third tier with Vasalund IF was handed a role in midfield while Ulinzi Stars’ Oscar Wamalwa also had his chance starting in attack.
Samuel Odhiambo, a late call up to replace injured Brian Bwire was also handed his national team debut with youngster Timothy Odhiambo starting on the bench.
Stars got into the lead early, Hassan striking a low shot past keeper Aishi Manula after being teed up nicely inside the box by debutant Wamalwa.
But the Tanzanians did not flicker despite conceding early and had two chances to get back on level terms. In the seventh minute, Athumani Miraji tried his luck with a freekick from the edge of the area but it went just over.
Two minutes later, Muzamiru Yassin picked the ball from range and went for a shot, but Odhiambo smothered it behind for a corner.
On the other end , Hassan should have scored his second of the evening but his shot from the edge of the area went over.
Some neat play after Kevin Kimani had won the ball on the left saw Lawrence Juma tee up the Bandari man after a lovely flick from Kenneth Muguna, but he could not keep his shot down.
On the half hour mark, Wamalwa had a go at goal when he controlled David Owino’s cross inside the box, but his eventual effort with a volley went wide.
Tanzania had been pressing Kenya forcing them to play in their own half, but Kimanzi’s boys stuck to their tactical discipline to endure they did not leave spaces behind them.
Typical of how they started the first half, Stars started the second with as much pace and desire. Ten minutes in, Bakari Mwamnyeto made a vital clearance to turn the ball behind for a corner and get the ball, of Wamalwa’s path with an open goalmouth.
On the hour mark, Wamalwa came close off a counter when he took a brilliant run on the right but his final effort hit the side netting.
Kimanzi then swung into his first change, Kimani coming off for Clifton Miheso in a like for like switch. With 10 minutes left, Wambani was rested for Whyvonne Isuza, the only player in the squad that was part of the 2017 squad.