• The Kenyan midfield displayed neatly-strung passes in a well calculated combination play but poor finishing cost them a goal.
• Meanwhile, Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa hopes that the match will convince the government to lift the suspension of football activities.
Al Masr’s Cliff Nyakeya was the day’s hero, clinching the winning goal for Kenya as an impressive Harambee Stars side silenced Chipolopolo of Zambia at the Nyayo Stadium this afternoon.
It was Zambia who were menacing in the initial minutes after kick off, making a statement of intent in the Harambee Stars penalty area as early as in the 2nd minute, but their effort went wide.
Kenya then forced a corner in the fifth minute but failed to capitalise on the opportunity after the ball flew over and rolled out of play begging for attention.
Kenya almost found the back of the net in the ninth minute but Zambia’s custodian Mwange Sebastian came to Chipolopolo’s rescue with a daring save.
In the 11th minute Ian Otieno threw himself on the path of an effort by Zambia as the South African nation sought to draw the first blood.
The Kenyan midfield displayed neatly-strung passes in a well calculated combination play but poor finishing cost them a goal.
Zambia almost got the lead on 19 minutes when a fiery Musonda Lubambo unleashed a rasping shot from the right flank, but his effort swirled inches wide on the far corner.
A Tandi Mwape howler put the hosts ahead after the defender netted an own goal. The goal injected some impetus into the Kenyan camp, who pushed on for more. Both teams proceeded to a water break in the 25th minute.
It was Otieno who once again saved face for Kenya in the 30th minute, as he stood firm in goal to block a close range effort by the charging Zambians. Zambia earned a corner in the 33nd minute but failed to make use of the opportunity.
A minute later, the Chipolopolo were on the loose again but the Kenyan defence stood firm to clear a glaring danger.
On 37 minutes Nyakeya extended Kenya’s lead after being neatly put through by Kenneth Muguna once again from deep into the midfield.
Zambia earned a set-piece a couple of minutes later when Lubambo was brought down by Nyakeya a few yards from the penalty area but fluffed it once more and saw another chance in stoppage time go begging.
The South African nation threatened the Kenyan goal a minute after break, eager to pull one back.
Kenya earned a free kick on the edge of the penalty area after Muguna was brought down only for Eric Johannah to squander the set-piece by shooting wide. A minute later, Kangwa Evans was attacking on the other end but his effort went wide.
Zambia appeared to be the better side in the initial minutes of the second half, making inroads especially from the flanks but were not clinical enough in the final third.
The Stars made a double substitution in the 60th minute when Timothy Otieno came on for Johannah and Hassan Abdalla replaced Masoud Juma.
The Zambians made a double substitution in minutes bringing on Shabula Emmanuel and Sakala Fashion.
In an effort to rejuvenate the side, coach Milutin Sredojevic made more changes to the side bringing on Banda Luka for Siame Lameck in the 71st minute. Kimanzi made another change introducing Francis Kahata for Kenneth Muguna.
The Zambian players swarmed the centre referee to protest a decision by the linesman to deny them a goal after calling for an infringement. Chabula Emmanuel drew a consolation for Chipolopolo in the 80th minute as Brian Mandela made way for Johnston Omurwa.
Nyakeya was elated with his performance: “I am happy we’ve won the match and I thank Muguna for providing the assist. I’m looking forward to scoring more goals for the national team.”
Meanwhile, Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa hopes that the match will convince the government to lift the suspension of football activities.
Mwendwa who is anticipating for the government to ease the restrictions on Monday believes the earlier the local competition resumes, the better the chances for Stars to beat Comoros during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers set for next month.
“We told the government to use the match as the yardstick for our preparedness for the league. Our local players have done well so far despite being out of action for a while. If we allow the league then our players will be ready for the Comoros double,” he said.