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Stars thrashed by Eritrea, lose CECAFA title

Eritrea celebrate their goal against Harambee Stars. PHOTO/Timothy Olobuu

KAMPALA, Uganda, Dec 17 – Defending champions Harambee Stars were outthought, outplayed, outwitted and outrun by a spirited Eritrean side as the Red Sea boys thrashed the Kenyans 4-1 to sail to the final of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup on Tuesday afternoon.

It was a day to forget for goalkeeper Samwel Odhiambo, who hitherto had been tipped to challenge for a place in the senior team as he conceded three lousy goals on a day that the Kenyan side played like a team without heart.

Robel Kidane, Abel Solomon and Michel Habte scored one a piece  to add on to Oscar Wamalwa’s early own goal as the Eritreans heavily revenged on the loss they suffered under Kenya’s hands in the semis of the Under-20 Championship in Jinja last October.

Wamalwa scored on the other end for Kenya’s consolation, but it wasn’t enough to wipe out the shame of a performance not worth to remember for head coach Francis Kimanzi and his charges.

Harambee Stars forward Oscar Wamalwa in action against Eritrea during the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup semi-final at the Lugogo Complex in Kampala, Uganda on December 17, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

It looked like a day nothing was going right for the Kenyans.

Two substitutions within the opening 40 minutes, zero shots on target and a goal down to the Eritreans wasn’t the ideal situation Kimanzi hoped for when he returned to the touchline after serving a two match ban.

Eritrea had done their home work on Stars. They closed down the spaces, and ran in behind the defense as they sought to break a Kenyan side that had not lost in the group stages.

They broke the deadlock in the 20th ,minute when Kidane’s shot from the right was punched to Wamalwa’s legs by Samuel Odhiambo after Joash Omyango was left for the dead from a quickly started short corner.

The Eritreans had won the set piece just after losing an open scoring chance.

Skipper Robel Teklemichel volleyed the ball over, unmarked from inside the area after Ismael Sultan’s cross from the right was deflected to his path.

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Kimanzi made his first change after 28 minutes, Roy Okal who had started in midfield after impressing against Zanzibar being hauled off early for Whyvonne Isuza.

Harambee Stars forward Abdallah Hassan in action against Eritrea during the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup semi-final at the Lugogo Complex in Kampala, Uganda on December 17, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Stars were forced into another change 10 minutes later when Kevin Kimani came off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Daniel Sakari.

In the second half, when Stars thought they would come in and fight to get back into the match, they were punched right in the underbelly, thanks to some outrageous effort from Solomon.

The midfielder cited keeper Odhiambo way off his line and went for a brilliant effort from 50 yards out, the ball skipping into the net much to the glee of the hundreds of Eritrean fans who had thronged the stadium.

Immediately, Kimanzi called in a change, Musa Masika coming in for Samwel Olwande, the tactician going for a three at the back formation with Sakari playing the wingback role.

Harambee Stars forward David Owino in action against Eritrea during the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup semi-final at the Lugogo Complex in Kampala, Uganda on December 17, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Just two minutes later, Kenya halved the deficit when Wamalwa tapped the ball home from close range after Joash Onyango’s header from a Kenneth Muguna free kick hit the upright.

Stars were motivated by the goal and pushed the Eritreans to their half, but found it difficult to crack a strong defensive wall put up.

They were punched out once again in the 65th minute with another cheap goal, substitute Habte curling the ball over Odhiambo with a chipped effort from the left after another short start to a corner.

To add insult to injury, skipper Robel Teklemichel danced away from Joash and Sakari on the left before squaring the ball to Kidane who simply tapped the ball home with Odhiambo out of his line.

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