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South Sudan give Harambee Stars a reality check in friendly match

 Peter Manyang (R) of South Sudan tackles Juma Masoud of Harambee Stars during International Friendly match played at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on September 12, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Harambee Stars were today given a rude shock, losing 1-0 to South Sudan's Bright Stars in a friendly match at Kasarani Stadium.

And Kenya were punished by none other than newly signed Kenya Police striker Tito Okello.

The defeat left a sour taste in the mouth of Kenya fans as they felt disappointed after the team impressively silenced Qatar 2-1 in last week's build up in Doha.

Save for the likes of Daniel Anyembe, Richard Odada, Eric Ouma and Duke Abuya who were some of the bright sparks in the game, Harambee Stars' performance was literally a pale shadow of their famous win against the Asian champions.

Though Kenya had beaten a tactical Qatar with a couple of gifted and technical players, they failed to break down a physical South Sudanese with height, working on the disadvantage of the hosts.

Captain Peter Manyang-led backline remained too solid as they defended with their bodies to secure a historic win over Harambee Stars.

Both Kenya and South Sudan were using the match to prepare for the upcoming 2026 World Cup Qualifiers in November. Kenya will have to work on its finishing if they want to beat Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Seychelles and Burundi in their Group 'F' matches.

Interestingly, it is newly signed Kenya Police striker Tito Okello who punished Engin Firat's men in the second minute following a defensive error from Joseph Okumu.

The former Gor Mahia forward pounced on a weak-back pass from the Reims defender to slot the ball past goalkeeper Bryne Omondi.

South Sudan almost doubled the lead a few minutes later when Omondi's quickly taken goal kick was blocked by the opposing player but the KCB youngster did well to amend the mistake by stopping the resulting attempts.

 Peter Chol (L) of South Sudan tackles Richard Odada of Harambee Stars during International Friendly match played at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on September 12, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

But Harambee Stars will have themselves to blame as they created numerous scoring chances but failed to find the back of the net with captain Michael Olunga, Kenneth Muguna and Masud Juma the key culprits.

Muguna could have drawn level before the half hour mark after a brilliant team build up, but his effort was superbly blocked by Bright Stars goalkeeper Joseph Anyuma for a fruitless corner.

Olunga then had a clear cut chance to equalise midway through the second half, but the Al Duhail man fluffed his lines on a one-on-one situation with Anyuma as the visitors resorted to defensive tactics, waiting to hit Kenya on counter attack.

Olunga's miss happened moments after Bradford City midfielder Clark Oduor finally made his eagerly awaited Harambee Stars return by replacing Masud Juma on the hour mark as Duke Abuya came on for Muguna.

With that victory, South Sudan have shown that they are slowly but surely becoming a force to reckon with in the East Africa region.

Despite numerous raids, Stefano Cusin's boys held their nerves to secure the win and bounce back in style from last Friday's 4-0 away defeat to Mali in AFCON qualifiers.

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