Relax, in one year, Kenya will be up there

Harambee Stars’ Head Coach Engin Firat and Kenneth Muguna in training at Kasarani Annex. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat has said Kenya will be ready to compete at the top level in the next one year.

Speaking after playing Iran on Tuesday night, Firat said the team needs time to build team chemistry and gel.

Harambee Stars marked their return to international football after two year's absence with a 2-1 defeat to Iran at Azadi Stadium in Tehran.

Stars captain Michael Olunga gave Kenya the lead in the 51st minute before Patrick Matasi howlers gifted Mohammad Mohebi and Ramin Rezaeian two quick-fire goals in the final 15 minutes as the Iranians picked a win.

Firat said this being the first time Stars were playing after more than a year of inactivity due to Kenya suspension by Fifa, he was impressed with his charges as they managed to put up a brilliant display against Iran. 

“As a first time, we played very well against a very strong side like Iran. The team has not been together for close to two years and I am pleased with what I saw save for the late blunders," said the Turkish tactician who is in his second spell with Kenya.

“We need time for these boys to gel as a team. At this moment, we still have a lot of work. In one year, we will be ready."

AFC Leopards striker Victor Omune was handed his debut alongside Alfred Scriven (IL Hodd, Norway) and defender Daniel Anyembe (Viborg, Denmark), but it was the usual danger man Olunga who impressed in Tehran.

Celebrating his eighth-year anniversary with the national team, the Qatar-based Olunga picked up a ball from the middle of the field, shrugged off one Iran defender before sprinting his way to the opposite box to slot past a helpless goalkeeper.

Kenya took an unfamiliar 1-0 lead in hostile territory in the 51st minute, as coach Firat introduced former Gor Mahia captain Kenneth Muguna to steer Harambee Stars ship.

However, in the final 15 minutes, two mistakes saw Kenya surrender their well-deserved lead to trail 2-1 in a span of seven minutes.

In the 76th minute, Eric Ouma committed a needless foul at the edge of the box that saw Iran get a free kick, which Mohammad Mohebi headed past Matasi who left his goal uncovered and was caught unawares by the set piece, which tied the scores at 1-1.

Seven minutes later, things went from bad to worse for Matasi whose howler gifted Iran the victory.

From a short free kick, Rezaeian attempted to cut the ball back into the area but his low cross-squeezed through Matasi’s hands before rolling over the line.

The goal gifted Iran a 2-1 win over Kenya.

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