Goalkeeper Patrick Matasi was the hero as Harambee Stars edged out Zanzibar Heroes 3-2 on post-match penalties to win a seventh Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Sunday.
Matasi saved three penalties to help Stars beat the impressive islanders, who twice came from behind to force the match into penalties. The match ended 2-2 after extra time.
In a classic match that befitted a final of the oldest competition in the continent, Kariobangi Sharks winger Ovella Ochieng opened the scoring with a beautiful free-kick in the fifth minute before substitute Khamis Musa struck the equaliser with two minutes to play to force the match into extra time.
Substitute Masud Juma gave Kenya the lead in the 97th minute but the celebrations at a packed Kenyatta Stadium were cut short two minutes later when Khamis Musa slotted home yet again after a poor clearance by Musa Mohamed inside the area.
MATASI THE HERO
Matasi proved his mettle, saving from Adeyum Sief, Issa Dau and Issa Juma’s from 12 yards. Feisal Abdalla and Mudathir Yahya scored Zanzibar’s two spot kicks.
Stars converted through Jockins Atudo, Wesley Onguso and Samuel Onyango. Duncan Otieno’s feeble shot was saved by Abdulrahman Mohamed.
Apart from the Sh3 million prize money, Stars also pocketed an extra Sh2 million courtesy of governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Mike Sonko (Nairobi) who donated Sh1 million each.
Runners up Zanzibar took home Sh2 million and Uganda Sh1 million for coming third.
The chief guest, deputy president William Ruto had not even settled on his seat before Ovella sent thousands of Stars fans into frenzy with a stunner early on.
The Kariobangi Sharks man converted a well-executed free-kick past Abdulrahman Mohamed after Abdul-Aziz Makame fouled Whyvonne Isuza 28-yards out.
Heroes suffered a major setback 18 minutes into the game after Makame was stretchered off the pitch injured. Coach Hemed Suleiman was forced to throw into the fray Feisal Abdallah, who was a surprise exclusion from the starting XI.
Duncan Otieno fouled Ibrahim Hamad outside the box in the 41st minute but Haji Mwinyi’s shot went way-ward off target.
Two minutes later, Kassim Suleiman dispossessed Atudo on the left flank, drove into the box but his cross was headed wide by Seif Abdalla.
Action swung from end-to-end in the final half but it was Zanzibar who had the last laugh, ending Matasi’s five-game run without conceding with an 88th minute equaliser.
Khamis, who replaced Seif Abdalla in the 56th minute, tapped home Mwinyi’s cutback that Stars’ red shirts failed to clear to force the match into extra time.
Masud, a second half substitute, was a beneficiary of a poor goal kick from Abdulrahman Mohamed, before racing into the area where he slotted home with the outside of his right boot. He was then booked for celebrating wildly.
Khamis cut short the celebrations two minutes later with goal number 40 in this year’s edition, lobbying over Matasi from a Suleiman cross which the Stars backline failed to deal with.
'WE GAVE OUR BEST'
Matasi was crowned both the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and also the goalkeeper of the tourney, while Uganda’s Derrick Nsibambi won the Golden Boot with his four goals.
“I’ve been training saving penalties both at club and national team level. A day to the match, Haggai (Stars goalkeeper coach) told me to be static in my position when a penalty is taken and that’s exactly what I did. It was a tense game but we are happy we emerged champions,” an excited Matasi told Nation Sport after the match.
Coach Hemed congratulated Stars despite failing to complete the job.
“We gave our best in this competition. No one gave us a chance to reach the final, though we lost, we did it honourably. We gave them a run for their money. Going forward, Zanzibar needs to be restored as a state to compete in major competitions,” Hemed said.