Who will blink first in Harambee Stars’ derby at Kasarani Stadium?

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Sunday, August 4th 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
Tanzanians are on a mission to break the Kenyans’ hearts at their own backyard. [Courtesy]

Will Harambee Stars continue with their dominance over Tanzania’s Taifa Stars when the two East African rivals clash in a high-stakes return leg tie of the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers at Kasarani Stadium at 4pm today?

Or will the wounded Tanzanians have the last laugh by avenging their 3-2 African Nations Cup loss to Kenya in Cairo?

Today’s encounter is on a knife-edge as both team’s qualification to the final qualifying round the local-based players’ tournament is still wide open after last Sunday’s goalless first leg clash in Dar es Salaam.

And just like any other derby across the world, there is a lot at stake in today’s rematch of the East African derby.

Save for the region’s bragging rights, the winner on aggregate will book a date with Sudan. The continental finals will be held in Cameroon early next year.

While Harambee Stars will be out to finish the job at home and meet Sudan in the next round, the Tanzanians are on a mission to break the Kenyans’ hearts at their own backyard.

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Should the match end in a barren draw, it will head straight to penalties to determine who goes through to the next round while Taifa will qualify with any scoring draw.

Aware of the task lying ahead of the team, Harambee Stars head coach Sebastian Migne has recalled the attacking duo of Tusker winger Boniface Muchiri and Kakamega Homeboyz striker Kevin Omondi.

Even as he plots to keep it tight at the back, the Frenchman has challenged his strikers to be ruthless in front of goal. Kenya has been boosted by the return of Gor Mahia defender Philemon Otieno from suspension.

“Of course, it will not be an easy game because we will be playing under pressure looking for the qualification. We will attack throughout the match but with good compromise not to concede a counter-attack,” said Migne.

“But I have to remain positive. We have a small advantage from the first leg draw. But as you know we have a young squad and I don’t know which behaviour we can have under pressure. I hope with a full stadium and fans behind the team, we can beat them. It will be interesting for me as a coach to have an answer today.”

But having kept a clean sheet in Dar, Taifa Stars interim coach Etienne Ndayiragije feels the away goal rule will be in their favour.

“I am happy we kept a clean sheet at home. It’s somehow a positive result for us because we will not be under a lot of pressure in Nairobi,” said the Burundian.

“We learnt a lot from the first leg. We have worked on our mistakes and we are confident of getting good results away.”

Ndayiragije’s sentiments were echoed by Simba SC burly forward John Bocco, who revealed the importance of scoring an early goal.

“The team is in good spirits and the morale is very encouraging. Having failed to score at home doesn’t mean that we cannot score here. I believe we are ready to fight and make Tanzanians proud,” Bocco said.

“It will be a difficult but entertaining game. We will try and give our best. Whoever scores an early goal will have an edge.”

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