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How Eritrea pushed out Harambee Stars from Challenge Cup

Last updated 9 months ago | By Rodgers Eshitemi

Harambee Stars forward Oscar Wamalwa shields the ball from Eritrea players during the Cecafa Senior Challenge semi-final match at Lugogo Stadium, Kampala on December 17 2019. [Photo: Courtesy]

National football team, Harambee Stars’ exit from the 2019 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup tournament in Uganda, came as a shock to football lovers.

Kenyans were left with a bad taste in their mouth as they took to social media to vent their frustrations after Stars relinquished their regional title following a humiliating 4-1 semi-final defeat to minnows Eritrea on Tuesday at Lugogo Stadium, Kampala.

Social media was awash with criticism of the national team’s disjointed performance against the enterprising Red Sea boys.

Buoyed by Francis Kimanzi’s return to the touchline after a two-match suspension, Kenya, ranked 106th in the world, went into the match as favourites, but the 205th ranked Eritrea had other ideas.

Eritrea’s tactics and organisation were spots on with their skillful display making a complacent Stars look very ordinary.

Though the Eritreans were buzzing with confidence and hunger, it is the manner in which Kenya conceded the four goals that have baffled many fans. Stars just collapsed when it mattered most.

It is a day that everything went wrong for the deposed champions, from an early own goal to awful goalkeeping and poor defending.

And it is Western Stima goalkeeper Samuel Odhiambo who was particularly hounded for what many believed was a woeful display between the posts.

The 35-year-old custodian, who was featuring for the national team for the first time, was crucified by fans on social media for shipping in easy goals.

With a doubt, Odhiambo was at fault for three goals; Oscar Wamalwa’s own goal at the near post that gave Eritrea a first-half lead, followed by a second-half goal that made Abel Okbay look like Lionel Messi before Michel Habte’s effort from a tight-angle found him flatfooted.

“Let’s serve it while it’s still hot. Open the lip and see what happened for us to soak in 4 goals that, to me, would have been avoided. What was Abawa doing kwa goal? Keke Roy posted on his Facebook account.  

“Huyu ni goalkeeper wa wapi? Saingine enyewe heri coach a stick na watu wake wa Kawaida,” read a post from Wuod Ongare.

Odhiambo, a late inclusion in the travelling squad, beat all odds to command a starting place in the team ahead of Ulinzi Stars prodigy Timothy Odhiambo, who reportedly pulled a hamstring on the eve of the tournament.

Unfortunately, the technical bench had only travelled with two goalkeepers and the situation would have been worse if Samuel Odhiambo had picked up an injury or was red-carded during the semi-final.

But even though Kimanzi was gracious in the defeat, he said the whole team should take responsibility for the poor show.

“To be honest, it wasn’t our day. We conceded some goals that we could have done better as a team to defend. But all in all, we have to look at what was also good. When you concede four goals, it means we have made a lot of mistakes,” said Kimanzi.

“These are mistakes that we could have worked better as a unit and maybe get a positive result.  For today, Eritrea were better and they got their organisation right and we couldn’t work well as they did.”


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