Teresia Engesha and substitute Esse Akida were on target as Harambee Starlets beat Equatorial Guinea 2-1 in the second round first leg match of the AWCON qualifier played at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos yesterday.
The East Africans now need to draw away against the West Africans to qualify for AWCON for the second time in a row, having made their debut in 2016 in Cameroon. The event will this time round be held in Ghana later in the year.
Jade Sayo gave the visitors thelead in the 40th minute before debutant Engesha and substitute Esse Akida scored in the 42nd and 80th minutes respectively.
In the first half, the Kenyans dictated the proceedings with promising Sheryll Angachi — who started ahead of experienced Carolyne Anyango — Neddy Atieno and Mwanahalima Adam combining well up-front.
The match gathered momentum as the home girls dominated the match but on many occasions, failed to deliver as the visitors grew in confidence.
Atieno would have put the home team in the lead in the 28th minute but her goal was ruled out for offside.
The visitors then showed the urge for the goal and it didn’t come as surprise when Sayo scored in 40th minute.
Their joy was, however, short-lived as Engesha equalised two minutes later from a thunderbolt that sent the visitors’ goalkeeper, Lucrecia Boabaila the wrong side to end the first half on high.
On resumption, Starlets coach David Ouma rested Angachi for speedy Akida and the substitution paid off the coach’s faith, handsomely.
The home team showed the urgency with Corazone Aquino and Adam testing the Guinean goalkeeper amid weak shots.
Ouma then rested Atieno for Cynthia Shilwatso as the Starlets proved a better side with their opponents rarely attacking.
After hits and misses, super substitute Akida scored the winner 10 minutes to time to award the home team the much needed win.