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November 19, 2018

High-riding Harambee Stars douse Malawi's Flames

Flames' John Lanjes and Harambee Stars' Francis Kahata vie for the ball during their international friendly match at Safaricom Stadium Kasarani on Tuesday, September 11, 2018. /MESHACK KISENGE
Flames' John Lanjes and Harambee Stars' Francis Kahata vie for the ball during their international friendly match at Safaricom Stadium Kasarani on Tuesday, September 11, 2018. /MESHACK KISENGE

A second half goal by influential Gor Mahia midfielder Francis Kahata is all Harambee Stars needed to extinguish visiting Flames of Malawi 1-0 in an international friendly match at Safaricom Kasarani Stadium on Tuesday. 

The victory extended head coach Sebastien Migne's superb form with Stars. Since the Frenchman's appointment in May, he is yet to taste defeat in the four matches he has been in charge.

Prior to the kickoff, Migne made two changes to the squad that played against Ghana on Saturday. Experienced right-back Jockins Atudo was drafted at the right back after first choice Philemon Otieno failed a late fitness test, while Jesse Were was preferred ahead of Michael Olunga.

In the first half, a relatively gloomy Stars failed to master a single shot on target. Their build-ups prematurely ended in their opponent's final third, thanks to their watertight defence.

IF Vasalands speedy winger Ovella Ochieng was lively on the right wing, troubling his marker Precious Sambani. His dribbling skills were outstanding, but his final crosses aimed at reaching Zesco United forward Jesse Were were unsuccessful.

Were, who was unused in the Ghana tie, struggled to fit into Olunga's big shoes. His moves were predictable, and he did not seem up to the challenge in the 45 minutes he donned in the national team colours.

Stars would have fallen behind in the 34th minute after a well-executed corner kick by Rafick Namwera was nodded in by Gerald Phiri. However, Stars' keeper Patrick Matasi fully stretched to deny the towering striker.

Also read: Ten-man Harambee Stars revive AFCON hopes after humiliating Ghana’s Black Stars with a 1-0 win

A minute later, Musa Mohammed became the first player to be booked by the referee for a dangerous tackle on John Banda. The resultant freekick, inches off the box, went over the bar as Stars survived another scare.

After a dull first half, Migne withdrew the ineffective Were and Ochieng for the youthful duo of Piston Mutamba and Erick "Marcelo" Ouma.

Four minutes into the final half Anthony Akumu replaced Ismael Gonzalez as Migne sought to break the deadlock.

The inclusion of the three revitalised Stars. Marcelo sprayed quality crosses to Mutamba who was unlucky not to put Kenya ahead in the 51st minute when his header narrowly missed the target.

The visitors made a change at the stroke of the 60th minute, bringing in Msowoya Chiukepo for Richard Mbulu in an attempt to neutralise Star's midfield.

A minute later, Migne handed Bandari winger Hassan Abdallah his maiden appearance when he came in for Erick Johanna.

It was Kahata who proved the match-winner in the 75th minute when he pounced on Marcelo's pinpoint cross, which escaped the radar of the Malawian defenders.

Stars continued raiding their opponents' box as they sought to increase the lead.

Malawi head coach Ron Van Geneurden admitted that Stars were stronger after the second half substitutions. "They overpowered us after making the substitutions in the second half. The match was supposed to end in a one all draw but, unfortunately, we were denied a clear penalty in the final minutes if the game."

Migne said, "We had a boring first half and it was not easy to play in a near-empty stadium."

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