Olunga goal earns Kenya priceless draw against Egypt
Harambee Stars displayed one of their finest performances in recent times to hold hosts Egypt to a one-all draw on Thursday night in both teams’ opening Group G match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Alexandria.
The Pharaohs were missing Liverpool attacker Mohamed Salah and Pyramids playmaker Abdullah El-Said, but still scored the opening goal through Mahmoud Kahraba on the stroke of half time.
KENYAN FIGHT BACK
But the Kenyans fought back gallantly in the second stanza and their efforts were reward by Michael Olunga 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 half 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 Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan with the able assistance from Tarek Ahmed and Ahmed Fathi.
After 14 minutes, Fathi brought 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 from the edge of the area.
COSTLY BACK PASS
Then Kenya got her first real breakthrough as the skilful Timbe dribbled through the opponents defence, 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 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 group match, hosts Togo fell 1-0 at home to Comoros.