AFC Leopards youthful striker's tap-in guides hosts into the semis

Harambee Stars Vincent Oburu, 14, (centre) is congratulated by his team mates during CECAFA at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos County. Dec 11, 2017. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The forced smile on the face of Harambee Stars' head coach Paul Put at the final whistle of their last group A match against Tanzania yesterday told it all.

Kenya were staring at the exit door of the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup yesterday at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

Stars knew that anything less than maximum points against Taifa Stars would see them walk away in shame.

And they delivered when it mattered most, with Vincent Oburu tapping home Ovella Ochieng's cross for a slim but priceless 1-0 win and a ticket to the semifinals.

Victory was all the Kenyans wanted; the how did not matter. The high-fives on the Kenyan bench told of a team that was hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

The fans were becoming concerned. Stars had won once and drawn twice before this game, which was not enough to see them through to the last four.

The victory saw Kenya take their points tally to eight and leapfrog Zanzibar Heroes at the top of the table.

Heroes had lost by a similar margin to guest team Libya in an early match at the same stadium, as Burundi finished second behind defending champions Uganda after being frustrated to a barren draw by South Sudan.

Kenya will now meet the Swallow of Burundi in the first semifinal on Thursday in Kisumu before Uganda Cranes battle with Zanzibar Heroes the following day.

"It was a great feeling to score such an important goal in my first national team start. It is just the beginning, expect more," a jubilant Oburu told The Standard Sports.

Kenya came close in the fourth minute when Oburu and George Odhiambo combined well but the Gor Mahia winger's effort went wide.

The hosts continued raiding, but Ochieng wasted a precious scoring opportunity with only Tanzania goalkeeper Peter Manyika to beat. Moments later, Oburu missed a sitter from Ochieng's delivery on the right.

But the AFC Leopards player made amends, breaking the deadlock in the 19th minute when Ochieng's cross from the right was parried into his path, allowing the youngster to make the simplest of close range follow-ups.

Tanzania replied immediately, but Dennis Sikhayi made a timely tackle to stop Daniel Lyanga from shooting.

In Kakamega, Burundi finished second in group B with five points after they drew 0-0 with South Sudan yesterday.

 

By AFP 3 hrs ago
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