A second half goal by influential Gor Mahia midfielder Francis Kahata is all what Harambee Stars needed to put off the Flames of Malawi in an international friendly match staged at Kasarani stadium yesterday.
The victory extended head coach Sebastien Migne’s superb run with Stars to two out of four since his appointment in May. The Frenchman is yet to taste defeat on Kenyan soil in the last four matches he has overseen. Migne made two changes to the squad that played Ghana on Saturday, drafting experienced right back Jockins Atudo in place of first choice Philemon Otieno, who failed a late fitness test and Jesse Were being preferred ahead of Michael Olunga.
A relatively gloomy Stars failed to master a single shot on target in the first half with their build ups prematurely ending at their opponents’ final third, thanks to their water-tight defence.
IF Vasalands speedy winger Ovella Ochieng was lively on the right wing, troubling his marker Precious Sambani with his pace and dribbling skills but his final crosses aimed at reaching Were were unsuccessful. Were, who was unused in the Ghana tie, struggled to fit in Olunga’s big shoes and looked predictable with the ball hence could not prove equal to the challenge in the 45 minutes he donned 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 but Patrick Matasi fully stretched to deny the towering striker.
A minute later, Musa Mohammed became the first player to enter into the ref’s book for a dangerous tackle on John Banda but the resultant free-kick 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 respectively. 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 with Marcelo bringing quality crosses to Mutamba, who was unlucky not to throw Kenya ahead in the 51st minute with his header narrowly missing the target. The visitors made a change at the stroke of the 60th minute, bringing Msowoya Chiukepo for Richard Mbulu in an attempt to neutralise Stars’ midfield.
A minute later, Migne handed Bandari’s winger Hassan Abdallah his maiden appearance, replacing 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. Despite taking the lead, Stars still raided their opponents box but could not double the scores. Malawi head coach Ron Van Geneurden admitted that Stars were stronger after the second half substitutions. Migne said: “We had a boring first half and it was not easy to play in near empty stadium.”