Harambee Stars end World Cup qualifiers with a 2-1 win over Rwanda
FOOTBALL By Washington Onyango | November 15th 2021
Harambee Stars ended the 2022 World Cup qualifiers with a win after edging out Rwanda 2-1 in Monday's last Group E match played behind closed doors at Nyayo Stadium.
Stars captain Michael Olunga and midfielder Richard Odada scored in the first half as Kenya registered their first win in the qualifiers. Oliver Niyonzima scored Rwanda's consolation goal in the second half.
Kenya headed into the match behind their 1-1 draw against Uganda Cranes last week on Thursday, the same day Rwanda lost 1-0 to leaders Mali.
With both teams having being lost the chance to advance into the last phase of the qualifiers, they were playing just for pride.
And after 90 minutes, it was Kenya who had the last laugh and putting a smile on the face of Turkish coach Engin Firat, who is expected to leave his role with the expiry of his two-month contract.
The win sees Kenya finish third in Group E standings after six-matches with six points. Rwanda are last on the log without a win and with one point they registered when they drew 1-1 with Kenya during the first leg.
Mali qualified to the next stage of the World Cup qualifiers after finishing top with 16 points. Uganda Cranes are second with nine points.
Kenya started on the front foot at the Nyayo Stadium match after going ahead inside the opening three minutes of the match.
Erick Oumas' cross from the left wing found an unmarked Abdallah Hassan in the box, who headed the ball into Olunga's path for a simple tap-in to give Kenya an early 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Ouma combined with Hassan, but the Bandari winger failed to find Olunga with a low cross, which was cleared by the Rwandan defense.
Playing as a winger, Sweden-based full back Ouma continued to terrorise the Rwandan defense after finding Olunga unmarked in the box, who forced Rwandan goalkeeper Fiacre Ntwali into making a fine save that resulted into a fruitless corner.
Stars' early resilience and attack was rewarded again in the 13th minute when the centre referee pointed to the spot after Rwanda goalkeeper Ntwali brought down a surging Ouma inside the box.
Midfielder Richard Odada stepped up to score his first international goal for Kenya as the hosts went 2-0 inside the opening 15 minutes.
In the second half, Rwanda was the better side after dominating the last 45 minutes before they scored in the 66th minute through Oliver Niyonzima.
Speaking after the match, Olunga said they are happy with the win and can only work towards getting better in future assignments.
"We are happy with the win. Despite a tough qualifiers, I believe we did our best and can build on the win from next year Afcon qualifiers and international friendlies," said Olunga.
Harambee Stars coach Firat said he believes Kenya can be shaped into a better team.
"The team has a future. I am happy with the squad we have here and I wish I could stay and continue rebuilding the team. I said earlier I would leave if there is no future and I have seen a future for Stars. So I would like to stay," said Firat.
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