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Why Harambee Stars must avoid defeat tonight at all costs

FOOTBALL By Rodgers Eshitemi | November 15th 2020
Harambee Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee. [Kelly Aodi, Standard]

Harambee Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee is braced for a difficult match as they clash with Comoros in tonight’s (7pm) return leg of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers’ Group G fixture in Moroni.

The Islanders left the Kenyans with a mountain to climb in the qualification campaign after frustrating them to a 1-1 draw in Wednesday’s first leg encounter at Kasarani Stadium.

Though Masud Juma saved Kenya’s blushes by cancelling out Youssouf M’changama’s opener, the hosts failed to capitalise on the numerical advantage after the Guingamp midfielder was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 40th minute.

This was Kenya’s third draw of the campaign after an identical result against Egypt in Cairo and Togo in Nairobi.

And with three matches remaining (Comoros-today, Egypt-March 22 and Togo-March 30, 2021), Harambee Stars must avoid defeat by all means in Moroni today to keep their back-to-back Afcon finals qualification hopes alive.

Harambee Stars head coach Jacob Ghost Mulee overseeing training at Kasarani Stadium on November 02, 2020 ahead of their two-legged Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Comoros. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

Mohamed Salah-less Egypt were due to face off with Togo in their match day three encounter in Cairo last night. The Liverpool man has withdrawn from the two-legged fixture after testing positive for Covid-19.

Comoros have so far been the surprise package in the group as they currently lead with five points after a shocking 1-0 away win over Togo that was followed by an impressive barren home draw against African giants Egypt.

Heading into the second leg, Mulee who is in his fifth stint as national team coach after spells in 2003-2004, 2005, 2007-2008 and 2010 acknowledges the challenge that the vastly improved Islanders will pose for them.

“It is tight, because Moroni is a very difficult hunting ground. However, we will still compose ourselves, try to prepare well and see if we can be able to turn the tables,” said Mulee.

“Of course Comoros is a very solid side that has been together of over eight years. They just have what we call automization in football and they have been quite impressive. But we just need to plan on how it is going to be in Moroni. But the fact is, it is not going to be an easy game. Although football being what it is we can turn the tables there.”

Harambee Stars head coach Jacob Ghost Mulee overseeing training at Kasarani Stadium on November 02, 2020 ahead of their two-legged Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Comoros. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

Stars departed for Moroni via a chartered flight yesterday morning with Sofapaka midfielder Lawrence Juma and his Wazito counterpart Musa Masika the only additions in the squad that featured in Wednesday’s first leg 1-1 draw at Kasarani Stadium.

This is the first time that Masika is making a national team’s trip with his elder brother Ayub Timbe who scored a sublime goal to help Kenya progress to the next round of the 2015 Afcon qualifiers when the two teams last met in Moroni in 2014.

But just like Kenya who will once again have to do without their leading striker Michael Olunga, the hosts will miss the services of experienced midfielder M’changama through suspension.

But for Comoros first leg hero goalkeeper Ali Ahamada, tonight’s game presents them with a perfect opportunity to solidify their chances of qualifying for the finals .

“We hope to keep on going. And since we are playing at home and we will be eleven against eleven, we look forward to a good game,” said the Brann goalkeeper.


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