Ouma still optimistic as Harambee Starlets held

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Saturday, November 9th 2019 at 15:45 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Starlets’ Vivian Odhiambo dribbles past Barbra Banda of Zambia during first leg of Olympic 2020 qualifier at Kasarani Stadium on Friday Nov 8, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Harambee Starlets have a mountain to climb in Monday’s return leg of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers after a frustrating a 2-2 draw against Zambia’s Shepolopolo at Kasarani Stadium yesterday.

Marthe Tembo’s own goal canceled out her teammate Grace Chanda’s opener before Corazone Aquino gave Stars the lead in the second half only for Rachael Kundananji to cut her celebrations short with an equaliser on restart.

With the result, the Starlets need a high scoring draw or a win of any kind in Lusaka to progress to the final qualifying round.

But both coaches admitted that the game is still far from over with Stars coach David Ouma insisting that Zambia are still beatable.

“It is not yet over and I believe Zambia are still beatable. We are going there aware of their strengths,” said Ouma.

Zambia coach Bruce Mwape said: “We have two away goals, but I think the game is still wide open.”

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The winner on aggregate will battle with either Cameroon or Cote d’Ivoire in the final round, whose victors will directly qualify for next year’s global show-piece in Japan, while the loser will meet up with Chile in the inter-confederation playoffs.

Both sides staged a cautious start to the game but Zambia took an early lead when Grace Chanda comfortably finished off captain Misozi Zulu’s cutback from the right channel.

The opener came barely five minutes after Janet Bundi had skied her effort at the edge of the box after a great build up play from Starlets.

But Kenya grew in confidence as the game progressed and Mwanalima Adam nearly drew level in the 22nd minute but the diminutive Thika Queens forward feebly shot straight at goalkeeper Natasha Hazel.

Moments later, Wincate Kaari saw her effort miss target by inches as Starlets intensified the attack searching for an equaliser.

And after a series of threats, Starlets were rewarded on the half hour mark courtesy of left back Marthe Tembo’s own goal. Tembo headed into her own net while trying to intercept  Cynthia Shilwatso’s cross from the left flank.

Three minutes later, Elizabeth Mutukiza could have put the hosts in the driving seat, but she failed to control an incisive pass in the box.

Zambia responded immediately and they almost regained the lead through Rachael Kundananji’s individual but her long range shot crashed against the cross bar.

Kenya’s brilliant defending then stopped Chanda from grabbing her brace  before Vivian Makokha made a fantastic last ditch tackle to block Barbra Banda from scoring on the stroke of halftime.

Starlets captain Dorcas Shikobe nearly scored a wonder goal on the hour mark when she rattled the right post with a volley before Ruth Ingosi made a brilliant goal line clearance.

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