The long wait is over! The national women’s football team is through to the 2016 Africa Cup of Nations after overcoming Algeria on away goals.
The brave Harambee Starlets on Tuesday claimed their rightful place in Kenya's football history books after securing a dream ticket to the 2016 Women's African Cup of Nations finals to be held in Cameroon in November.
The Starlets rallied from a goal down to force a 1-1 draw in dramatic fashion against Algeria at a charged Kasarani Stadium to sail to the continental showpiece courtesy of away goals after a 3-3 aggregate.
The first leg in Algiers ended in a 2-2 draw last Friday giving Kenya an upper hand and at home yesterday, where they completed the job.
In an end-to-end game that kept the cheering home fans on their feet, Algeria struck when least expected in the 20th minute with the dangerous attacker, Bouheni Naima poking home from inside the box.
AVILIA THE HERO
However, determined Stars equalised with a quarter of an hour left when substitute Cheris Avilia powerfully drove in to spark off wild celebrations in the Starlets bench and the terraces.
"This is history that has been made. We have done it against all the odds. No one gave us a chance but we have done it," an emotional Starlets head coach David Ouma said after the match as he soaked up the magnitude of the moment.
“Algeria knew that any kind of a win would put them through and we did very well. We played a good experienced team and we pressurised well to get an equaliser."
Starlets, who had appeared subdued after conceding the first goal, turned the game on its head pressing for an equaliser after 60 minutes and never got their feet off the gas pedal.
Key in changing the tide of the game was the imposing Neddy Atieno, who came to life with tremendous runs in the last quarter, while substitutes Vivian Odhiambo and the goal scorer Avilia showed the resolve.
Early on in the 15th minute, the home side had shook the net after a lovely interplay allowed Jereko Mwanahalima to fire in but she was flagged offside.
The first half had been dominated by missed chances for Starlets with Atieno rattling the woodwork from the box in the 27th minute while captain Mary Kinuthia directed her shot to the waiting hands of Algerian goalkeeper Fedoul Nadjet.
So poignant was the conquest that at the end of the game, the Kenyan ladies went on their knees to thank the heavens before dashing to the terraces to celebrate with the crowd while FKF president, Nick Mwendwa also joined in the frenzy.
President Uhuru Kenyatta also congratulated the ladies on their historic feat.
"Congratulations Harambee Starlets for writing a chapter in our football history by qualifying for the 2016 Women Africa Cup of Nations," wrote the President on Twitter.
STARLETS LINE UP
Samantha Akinyi, Anne Aluoch (Cheris Avilia), Wendy Ann, Irene Awuor, Nixon Dorcas, Neddy Atieno, Carolyne Anyango (Vivian Odhiambo), Jereko Mwanahalima, Tabaka Chacha, Mary Kinuthia, Essie Mbeyu