Kenya’s Harambee Stars held their nerve to register a perfect four from four on post-match penalty kicks to defeat Zanzibar in a thrilling semi-finals and qualify for the final of the Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup on Thursday at the Nelson Mandela National Stadium.
Mike Baraza, Jockins Atudo, Edwin Lavatsa and Abdalla Juma kept their cool to slot home their spot kicks while Zanzibar imploded dramatically to miss their first two attempts.
The penalty shoot-out ended 4-2 in favour of Kenya after a frantic 120 minutes of football had remained dead even at 2-2.
The victory was sweeter for Harambee Stars who came from behind twice to level scores against the hard-running islanders.
Harambee Stars will now make their first final appearance at the regional football showpiece since 2008 when they qualified for the ultimate stage, incidentally, in Uganda where they lost 0-1 to the hosts.
Both teams played a fast paced game throughout the match with Zanzibar dominating the first half and Kenya settling to dominate the second half.
Zanzibar should have taken the lead in the second minute when Jaku Juma Jaku, made a solo run on the right but fired off target. Kenya had an open chance in the 10th minute Mike Baraza wide from a from Kevin Omondi cross.
Khamis Mcha Khamis struck in the 20th minute after receiving a cross from Suleyman Kassim following a mix-up in the Kenya defence to give Zanzibar first goal.
But after cutting off the Zanzibar with continuous raids, a good combination from Baraza, Ramadhan Salim and Clifton Miheso, forced Zanzibar’s Nadir “Canavarro” Haroub to head into his own goal in 20th minute.
On resumption, both teams searched for a winner with probing raids. Aggrey Morris scored a 75th minute penalty after David Owino fouled a Zanzibar striker in the box to make it 2 – 1 in favour of Zanzibar. Baraza headed in Kenya’s equalizer in the 80th minute to level matters 2–2 at full time.
The 30 minutes of extra-time did not yield anything different from both sides as they made attacks and counter attacks,
However the Kenyan camp wa hit by another injury when Victor Ochieng collided with Zanzibar’s Adeyon Ahmed inflicting a cut on his head. The Zanzibar player was given matching orders becoming the first player in the tournament to be shown a red card.
During the penalty shoot out Zanzibar’s Khamis and Issa Ali missed with only Morris and Ishak Omar scoring. Kenya scored though Baraza, Atudo, Lavatsa and Juma.
“I’m happy the boys have managed to win the tough encounter and qualify for the finals. We are now prepared for whichever side that qualifies for the finals whether Uganda or Tanzania,” said Kenya coach James Nandwa.
Zanzibar coach Salum Nassor said he was disappointed with his boys who surrendered their lead twice to Kenya.
“My boys led the game but threw it away to Kenya,” he said.
He said he is resigning his position as coach because he has failed to win the regional soccer tournament. “ I have resigned my position as coach because I have failed to clinch the regional title,” he said.