‘I will not give up’ – Olunga sends emotional message to fans after defeat to Algeria

By Robert Abong'o: Tuesday, June 25th 2019 at 10:18 GMT +3 | Football
Kenya's forward Michael Olunga (L) argues with Algeria's defender Djamel Benlamri during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Algeria and Kenya at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo on June 23, 2019 [AFP]

Harambee Stars and Kashiwa Reysol striker Michael Olunga has sent a message to fans following the team’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Algeria on Sunday, June 23 in an Africa Cup of Nations Group C tie.

This was Harambee Stars’ first appearance in the competition in 15 years and Sebastien Migne’s men were looking to extend the superb run of form they had in the qualifiers and preparation friendlies into the continental showpiece.

Olunga led the attack for Kenya, Migne, opting for a 4-3-3 formation with Gor Mahia’s Francis Kahata and Beijing Renhe’s Ayub Timbe supporting from the flanks.

The Desert Foxes started the game hot on Kenya’s heels, with Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez and Galatasaray forward Sofiane Fegouli forcing early bookings for Stars’ pair Aboud Omar and Philemon Otieno.

Kenya’s Ayub Timbe’s efforts to run at Algeria’s defence were fruitless, with Mahrez’s and Youcef Atal’s run’s down the left restricting him to his own half for better parts of the game.

Baghdad Bounedjah slotted in from the penalty spot in three minutes past the half-hour mark after Otieno’s foul on Atal inside the 18-yard box.  

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10 minutes later, Manchester City attacker Riyad Mahrez doubled the Foxes’ lead after catching the Stars’ defence sleeping to slotting a deflected shot past Patrick Matasi after Ismael Bennacer's cut-back.

Kahata came off for Vasalunds’ Eric Ouma ‘Marcelo’ at the start of the second period with Migne looking to find some attacking inspiration down the left.

The Foxes boasted more than 55 per cent ball possession by the hour mark, having made significant attempts at the Stars’ defence more at least 10 times.

Djamel Belmadi’s men made life difficult for Kenya, drawing most fouls close to the final third.

Mehdi Abeid and FC Porto star Yacine Brahimi came in as substitutes for the industrious Adlene Guedioura and Youcef Belaili respectively 20 minutes to full time, with Kenya taking off IF Brommapojkarna’s Eric Johanna Omondi for Cercle Brugge’s Johanna Omollo.

The game was cagey in the last 10 minutes, with Harambee Stars averaging double the number of fouls Algeria committed.

Goalscorer Bounedjah was replaced by Montpellier forward Andy Delort in the 81st minute as the Foxes looked to take the game away from the East Africans.

Kenya looked to pounce of Algeria’s recklessness late in the game with Johanna Omondi almost handing the boys a consolation.

With three minutes of added time, Las Palmas midfielder Ismael Gonzalez came in to replace Odhiambo.

The win left Algeria on top of Group C with 3 points, level on points with Senegal who beat Tanzania 2-0 in an earlier fixture.

Olunga had this to say on his social media: “Emotions still raw that we couldn't win the battle against a worthy opponent. In the end, we heard to learn the hard way. But, I WILL NOT GIVE UP and will fight till the end. Thank you for the support, GOD ABOVE ALL,” read the post.

The Lions of Teranga will face the Desert Foxes in the group’s next encounter as Harambee Stars take on East African neighbours Tanzania on 27 June.

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