Olunga closes AFCON curtains for neighbours Taifa Stars

By By Sammy Kitula, in Cairo: Friday, June 28th 2019 at 09:29 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Stars players celebrate after beating Tanzania 3-2 [Courtesy]

So, this is where it all ends for Taifa Stars.

They spent the previous three days agonising over how to get past Kenya.

They will now spend more years to come anguished about just how Tanzanian football was contained by their next-door neighbours.

It was astonishing and unbearable to look at. It was an African Cup of Nations match like no other. It was expected to be a routine tie for Taifa Stars, but in the end? They were neutralised and left for the dead.

Tanzanian football lost something last night inside the 30 June Stadium. And that thing will hardly be recovered in generations.

The loss no doubt turned the match into a farce for home fans. They had begun with anger, transformed to disbelief, and then it all seemed satirical.

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Taifa Stars head coach Emmanuel Amunike believed in attacking in a pack but last night, he was the sole hunter as he strode up and down the touchline; alone and desolate.

Olunga got down to his knees after scoring the goal [PHOTO: Olunga - Twitter]

In the end, images of Tanzanian players furrowing their brows while others covered their faces with their jerseys in shame will remain a constant reminder of how not to compete at this level.

The pressure on them was telling. It was obvious they were overwhelmed, but Taifa Stars together with their hopes, were crushed and ultimately reduced to roving bystanders.

In a fixture they were under pressure to make a mark on, Kenya were at par with Tanzania from the opening whistle.

They just needed that one flash of stimulation, but incessant mistakes were like tremors, shaking the Kenyans to their very core while sparking the Taifa Stars into existence.

Taifa Stars fans will worry, while Harambee Stars fans less so after taking pleasure in one of their lucky displays in as many matches.

After the results, the exit door is slowly but indisputably gaping open for Taifa Stars. Their campaign in this year’s Afcon has lost further impetus as they suffocated once more.

There is so much more to Taifa Stars than that vicious press, yet on nights like yesterday’s, it is those moments that reverberate. How do they carry on?

Harambee Stars, more gleaming and ingenious in control than they were against Algeria in their opening match, were at liberty to believe that they merited victory.

These are the moments when top players prove their value. The fight had become a test of Harambee Stars’ bravery and they needed more from captain Victor Wanyama.

Instead it was Michael Olunga, who was intimidating, constantly asking for the ball. The lanky striker, always eager to run at defenders, lured Kevin Yondani into a clumsy foul with a piece of dexterity that left the centre-back a little lightheaded.

Kenya started to rush their passes. Teammates gave each other fixed stare with every hasty decision going forward. Expectations sparkled when in the 38th minute, Olunga cancelled Happy god Msuva’s opening goal.

The Kenyan man took advantage of a loose ball off Tanzanian goalkeeper Aishi Manula’s hand and with an acrobatic shot, ensured parity.

It only lasted seconds though as Taifa Stars captain picked up a loose ball inside the box before drilling home Tanzania’s second goal.

Before the game, coach Harambee Stars head coach Sebastian Migne said the match would be all about who converts their chances.

And truly, Kenyans were creating many of them, but converting none until the 62nd minute when Johanna Omollo headed home from close range off Timbe’s cross. Olunga then won it for Kenya with a powerful left shot.

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