Harambee Stars held off a late fightback to edge Zambia 2-1 in an international friendly at the Nyayo National Stadium as football action resumed in the country for the time since COVID-19 restrictions were imposed in March.
Cliff Nyakeya had a hand in both goals for the hosts who emerged from a slow start to lead 2-0 at the break but Zambia were much stronger after the restart, pulling one back were denied another by what looked like an officiating error.
🖤 We love you #HarambeeStars
— Harambee Stars (@harambee__stars) October 9, 2020
Tindi Mwape diverted the ball into his own net for the opener from Nyakeya’s cross after the FC Masr attacker had been teed up by Kenneth Muguna.
The same combination worked to devastating effect moments later with Nyakeya firing home a superb finish from outside the area to put Francis Kimanzi’s men 2-0 up, a lead they preserved into the half time break.
Emmanuel Chabula netted the consolation for the visitors, who could have completed a comeback to earn a draw but their goal was not awarded when replays showed it had crossed the goal-line.
It was more of sweet revenge from the last meeting at the same venue when Zambia stunned the Kenyan fans in a reverse result during an African Cup of Nations qualifier in 2015.
Stars began slowly, a lack of match fitness evident on the players but improved as the match went on.
Kenya came close in the sixth minute with Zambia’s defense failing to clear a well floated in free kick in the box, but both Masoud Juma and Kenneth Muguna could not capitalise.
A sweet exchange of passes between Gor Mahia captain Muguna and Nyakeya from the right channel forced Zambia’s Tandi Mwape to score in his own net in the 20th minute, giving Kenya the lead.
Nyakeya and Muguna were having no trouble in making Zambia’s defense uncomfortable from the right flank, and their 37th partnership proved dividends with the Egypt based attacker powerfully shooting past a diving Sebastien Mwange.
Just before the break, Stars escaped narrowly as Benson Sakala beat captain Brian Mandela and Joash Onyango only to stumble before pulling the trigger. He however shot while still on the ground, having noticed keeper Ian Otieno off his line but the ball flew over the bar.
Just after the restart, Sakala had a chance to make for the lost chance after a cleared ball fell on his path, but lost his footing and missed his effort on goal.
Towards the hour mark, Kimanzi took off Eric Johanna and Masoud Juma, who had a quiet afternoon to introduce Timothy Otieno and Hassan Abdallah respectively.
But it was Zambia who grew hungrier as the second half wore on, pressing the hosts into their own half for the better part. Thanks to Anthony Akumu’s anchored midfield, the pressure was relatively managed.
With 10 minutes to go, substitute Chabula beat Mandela to head to the left corner of the net to reduce the visitor’s deficit by half.
But Stars held on to win despite Zambia’s resilience, marking an pleasant start for the team after nine months of inactivity, ahead of Kenya’s African Cup of Nations qualifiers in November.
Starting XI: Ian Otieno, Baraka Badi, Brian Mandela, Joash Onyango, David Owino, Antony Akumu, Lawrence Juma, Kenneth Muguna, Eric Johanna, Cliff Nyakeya, Masud Juma
Substitutes: Timothy Odhiambo, Johnstone Omurwa, Clarke Oduor, Philemon Otieno, Francis Kahata, Hassan Abdallah, Katana Mohamed, Austin Otieno, Elvis Rupia, Timothy Otieno, Oscar Wamalwa
Starting XI: Sebastian Mwange, Lubambo Musambo, Zacharia Chilongoshi, Tandi Mwape, Kabaso Chongo, Benson Sakala, Kelvin Kapumbu, Edward Chilufya, Kings Kangwa, Evans Kangwa, Fashion Sakala
Substitutes: Lameck Siame, Jackson Kakunja, Kondwani Chibwoni, Godfrey Ngwenya, Luka Banda, Dominic Chanda, Leonard Mulenga, Chanza Zulu,Collins Sikombe, Gamphani Lungu, Emmanuel Chabula, Kelvin