Harambee Stars leave Libreville limping after same old problems

Masud Juma of Harambee Stars is aided by team medics after he got injury against South Sudan during International Friendly match played at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on September 12. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat is confident Kenya will remain on course to achieve its set goals and objectives despite losing to Gabon on Thursday in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Kenyan began the qualifiers on the back foot after losing 2-1 to Gabon at Stade De la Renovation in Franceville.

Masud Juma gave Kenya a 1-0 half time lead, a lead Engin Firat charges could not hold on to in the final half as the hosts rallied from behind to win in front of their fans.

Juma headed home into an empty net after capitalising on defensive mistake and miscommunication between the Gabon goalkeeper Junior Noubi and his defender to score from a long range cross from Amos Nondi in the 40th minute.

The goal gave Kenya hope of starting the qualifiers on winning note as they went to the breather with a lead.

However, in the second half, Johnstone Omurwa failed to clear a long range pass, a mistake Denis Bouanga capitalised on to level the scores in the 60th minute, lobbying the ball past a charging Patrick Matasi in goal for Kenya.

A series of bleak counter attacks followed for Kenya in an attempt to regain their lead but it was the hosts who had the last laugh after Guelor Kanga struck a 20-yard screamer past a helpless Matasi to win it for Gabon in the 88th minute.

Speaking after the match Firat said they were unlucky but ready to fight.

“We were missing a lot of players for the match and I give it to the boys. They gave their all in the match and I cannot demand more from them considering the situation in the team.

“We were very unlucky in the match where despite leading in the first half we could not hold on to the lead and conceded two goals,” said Firat.

The Turkish tactician however said the defeat will not change their focus in the qualifiers as they turn their attention to their second match against Seychelles on Monday.

“Now we have to pick every single point. The defeat has set us back and we have to start on Monday by winning the match against Seychelles. Every point is important from now going forward. It won’t be easy but we will manage,” he said.

Kenya are in Group F alongside Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Burundi, and Seychelles.

Meanwhile, Burundi moved top of the group after edging out Gambia 3-2 in a five-goal thriller match played at Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium in Tanzania. Kenya are bottom without a point.

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