Francis Kimanzi begins his Harambee Stars’ third tenure with draw at Kasarani

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Sunday, September 8th 2019 at 23:24 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Stars’ Kenneth Muguna and Khalid Aucho of Uganda during a friendly match at Kasarani Stadium. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Kenneth Muguna opened his national team goal account as Harambee Stars came from behind to hold arch-rivals Uganda Cranes to a 1-1 draw in Sunday’s thrilling friendly match at Kasarani Stadium.

Emmanuel Okwi had given Cranes a first-half lead in the 23rd minute, but Francis Kimanzi’s tactical tweak to bring on Whyvonne Isuza for debutant Collins Agade on the stroke of halftime before pushing Muguna forward paid off five minutes into the second half as the Gor Mahia captain cancelled out the former Simba man’s opener.

It is a game that saw Kimanzi hand senior team debuts to Agade, Samuel Olwande, Lawrence Juma, Boniface Muchiri, Amai Atariza and Johnstone Omurwa in his first game since succeeding Sebastien Migne last month.

“There was a lot of positives from the game because we were able to come from a goal down to draw against a very strong team,” said Kimanzi.

“There is some belief in the team and players like Lawrence Juma really surprised me with his zeal and commitment. I can feel for Agade, but we needed to inject some speed in the midfielder because Cranes were really fast in the first half and that’s why we countered that by bringing on Isuza.”

Both teams were using the game to prepare for the upcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers in November.

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Kenya threatened first in the third minute, but Michael Olunga’s shot was easily cleared by Timothy Awany before goalkeeper Patrick Matasi comfortably gathered Khalid Aucho’s long-range effort.

Aucho almost broke the deadlock in the seventh minute, but the former Tusker and Gor Mahia midfielder side-netted Allan Kyambadde’s delivery from the right flank.

Kenya’s real chance came three minutes later when Olunga rose high to connect Johanna Omondi’s pinpoint cross only for his header to go over the bar before Emmanuel Okwi forced a fine save from Matasi on the opposite end.

Allan Okello nearly gave Cranes the lead on the quarter-hour mark but the KCCA youngster was denied by the post after a brilliant team build-up.

But after a series of raids, the Cranes finally found the breakthrough in the 23rd minute when Luwagga Kizito outraced KCB defender Michael Kibwage before setting up Okwi, who beat Joash Onyango before slotting the ball past Matasi.

A defensive mix up almost handed Cranes their second goal from a corner kick, but Matasi reacted quickly to pick up the ball.

Kenya had a chance to draw level on the half-hour mark after Ayub Timbe released through Eric Johanna, but the former Mathare United man went for glory, shooting straight at Cranes goalkeeper Charles Lukwago instead of cutting the ball back.

Moments later, Collins Agade combined well with Timbe but the China-based winger’s powerful effort went agonizingly wide. Kimanzi then made a tactical change with defensive midfielder Agade paving way for attack-minded Whyvonne Isuza in the 40th minute.

Johanna skied his effort as Kenya pushed for an equaliser, but they were almost punished on the stroke of halftime when Taddeo Lwanga’s free header went wide.

Wazito centre half Johnstone Omurwa then replaced Kibwage before restart with Kimanzi tactical tweak to push Muguna forward after the introduction of Isuza stabilizing the team.

Uganda could have doubled the lead three minutes into the second half but Mustafa Kizza’s free-kick hit the post.

Kenya responded with Muguna’s 50th-minute equaliser after pouncing on Timbe’s incisive cross from the left flank.

Johanna then missed two chances in succession before the keeper came off his line to deny Olunga on a one-on-one situation as Muguna’s goal was flagged offside.

In the 63rd minute, Isuza spurned a clear cut chance with the keeper only to beat before Amai Atariza came on for Samuel Olwande.

Olunga once again missed an opportunity to give Kenya the lead when he fluffed his 77th-minute effort from Muguna’s delivery before Boniface Muchiri and Duke Abuya replaced Johanna and Muguna respectively.

But Olunga almost made amends with a last gasp winner for Kenya, but he was denied by the post to the disappointment of the home fans.

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