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Brave Harambee Stars hold Pharaohs

Thursday November 14 2019

Kenya's forward Michael Olunga celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match against Tanzania at the Stadium in Cairo on June 27, 2019. PHOTO | JAVIER SORIANO |

Kenya's forward Michael Olunga celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match against Tanzania at the Stadium in Cairo on June 27, 2019. PHOTO | JAVIER SORIANO | AFP

DAVID KWALIMWA
By DAVID KWALIMWA
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Harambee Stars on Thursday displayed one of their finest performances in recent times to hold hosts Egypt to a one-all draw in both teams' opening Group G match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Alexandria.

The Pharaohs were missing Liverpool attacker Mohammed Salah and Pyramids playmaker Abdullah El-Said, but still scored the opening goal via Mahmoud Kahraba moments to the break.

But the Kenyans fought back gallantly in the second stanza and their efforts were repaid via a swift equaliser from Michael Oluinga with 20 minutes of the match left to play.

Despite off-the-field challenges in the Kenyan camp that dominated the build-up to this game, the visitors were as good as the seven-time African champions in an eventful opening stanza at a yawning El Borg stadium.

Stars coach Francis Kimanzi was forced to make substitutions in the opening half hour as key players Patrick Matasi and Ayub Timbe were stretchered off injured and replaced by Ian Otieno and Cliff Nyakeya respectively.

Kenya initially struggled to contain the sleek passing Egyptian midfield marshalled by Aston Villa winger Mohamed Trezeguet with the able assistance from Tarek Ahmed and Ahmed Fathi.

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OLUNGA EQUALISER

After 14 minutes, Fathi brought down Ayub Timbe down the left-hand side at the time the speedy winger was lurking towards goal. The China-based attacker took the resultant free-kick, but to failed to trouble goalkeeper Mohammed El Shenaway.

Moments later, Otieno had to be alert to save Mohamed Abdel Mondem's shot at the edge of the area.

Then Kenya got her first real breakthrough as the skilful Timbe dribbled through the opponents defence while beating three markers in the process. But his shot from point black range was easily gathered by El Shenaway.

Moments later, Kahraba reacted quickest to pounce on a feeble back pass from Gor Mahia midfielder Lawrence Juma. Sensing danger, Otieno rushed off his goal to avert the danger and got to the ball first.

But the keeper's clearance came off the Zamalek midfielder's shin, and the attacker was left with the easiest of jobs of tapping the ball in an empty net.

The equaliser came after Nyakeya appeared to chase a lost cause, but still struggled to retrieve the ball from a defender's leg and pass it over to Olunga, while he was still on his backside.

Olunga accepted the challenge and finished swiftly with his left foot.

Stars are expected back home on Saturday ahead of their next match in this competition versus Togo at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on Monday. In the other pool match, hosts Togo fell 1-0 at home to Comoros.

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