CHAN: Kenya ready for Stars’ duel

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Saturday, August 3rd 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
Kenya in action against Tanzania during the first leg of the 2020 Africa Nations Championship qualifier at the National Stadium, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. [Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com]

There is a growing sense of optimism within Harambee Stars’ camp ahead of tomorrow’s crucial 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) return leg against Tanzania’s Taifa Stars at Kasarani Stadium.

The eagerly awaited encounter dubbed the ‘East African derby’ remains on a knife-edge as both team’s qualification to the final qualifying round of the local-based players’ tournament is still wide open after last Sunday’s goalless first leg clash in Dar es Salaam.

Tomorrow’s 4pm tie will be the third meeting between the two neighbours in less than two months after Kenya twice came from behind to overcome Tanzania 3-2 in their AFCON Group C thriller in Cairo.

Stakes are high heading into the match whose winner on aggregate will book a date with Sudan on a yet to be confirmed date. Should the match end in a barren draw, it will head straight to penalties to determine who goes through to the next round. The continental finals will be held in Cameroon early next year.

But though pressure is on Kenya, Kariobangi Sharks midfielder Duke Abuya and his Wazito counterpart Musa Masika, who made their senior team debut in Dar es Salaam last weekend, are beaming with confidence ahead of the second leg fixture.

And having kept a clean sheet in the first leg, Abuya insists they will have to be more ruthless up front to sail through.

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“We gave a good account of ourselves in Dar es Salaam and we now have another chance to show the quality that we have in our domestic league,” Abuya told Standard Sports.

“We have jelled well as a team and I am sure with good link up upfront, we will score goals. On defence, we are perfect and what we need now is to score goals. I am sure if we make good use of our chances, we will qualify for the next round.”

Even as Masika called on for the fans to turn out in large numbers, he feels this is the time for the team to bring their A-game.

“Of course there is some pressure but I am glad we have positive vibes in team and everybody is determined to give his best. We must be at our best and make our fans proud. As you know, it will not be easy. So, let our fans come up in large numbers and help us make this mission possible,” said Masika, a younger brother to China-based winger Ayub Timbe.

Though the first leg ended in a stalemate, both players were elated at their debut performance.

“Playing for the national team is something that I have been longing for since childhood, I am glad I made my debut last Sunday. How I wish I had crowned it with a goal, but I am sure with God’s will, it will happen tomorrow,” said Abuya.

Masika added: “Though we didn’t win the match, it was a great experience for me. I enjoyed each and every moment on the pitch. I’m looking forward to more minutes tomorrow.”

Tusker winger Boniface Muchiri and Kakamega Homeboyz forward Kevin Omondi have both been recalled to the Sebastian Migne’s team.

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