Keli, Olunga on the mark as Harambee Stars fell Cranes

By: ISAAC SWILA

For a match that had so much at stake, Kenya’s Harambee Stars deservedly earned the bragging rights and three key points after putting old rivals Uganda Cranes to the sword with a 2-0 win on Sunday in their opening match of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup at the National Stadium in Addis Ababa.

Pint-sized striker Jacob Keli, who has blown hot and cold with the national team, fired Stars to a 29th minute-lead with a well guided effort from a through ball in the Group “B” match.

Keli, a live-wire in the first half, nearly made it 2-0 shortly before the break, but his low effort from a tight angle was saved by Cranes goalkeeper James Alitho.

His replacement in the second half, Michael Olunga then made it 2-0, delivering a low shot with his stronger left foot in the 49th minute after a neat play with Clifton Miheso.

STARS WINNING STRATEGY

Stars coach Bobby Williamson made changes for the match choosing Jesse Were and Keli to lead the forward line in his preferred 4-4-2 formation ahead of Olunga and Allan Wanga who begun on the bench, and it worked perfectly.

The combative Collins “Gattuso” Okoth and Anthony Akumu partnered at the heart of midfield offering a shield for a four-man defence comprising David “Calabar” Owino, David “Cheche” Ochieng, Noah Abich and Omar Mbongi, while Eric Johanna and Clifton Miheso claimed the wide midfield positions.

“I’m happy to have scored. I was yearning to play because I have not been having enough play time.

“The coach told us to begin strongly and we had speed which worked for us,” Keli said after the victory.

“Cape Verde is behind us now. We are looking to bounce back and try win this tournament after a difficult past few weeks,” Williamson said.

Said his Uganda Cranes counterpart Sredojevic Milutin: “It was a difficult match against a very competitive and experienced team that has just competed at the highest stage.

“Eighty per cent of our squad is aged under 23 and we found the going tough especially after going behind. We will however seek to bounce back very soon”

Early in the first half, Stars survived a scare when Uganda’s Farouk Miya rattled the cross bar with a thunderous shot.

After the break, Stars became sleek and sharper with Olunga looking menacing in the final third and Christin Bwamy, a replacement for Clifton Miheso adding more creativity on the left wing.

Early at the same venue, Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Stars crushed a clueless Ocean Stars of Somalia 4-0 to go top of Group “A”.

Kenya next play Burundi on Wednesday.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION