WAFCON Qualifier: Cameroon hand Harambee Starlets defeat ahead of Nairobi do-or-die clash
Harambee Starlets conceded a 1-0 defeat to Cameroon in a 2024 Africa Women's Cup of Nations (WAFCON) qualifier at Reunification Stadium in Douala on Friday, September 22, 2023.
Eliane Mambalano scored the only goal in the first half that separated the qualifying preliminary round rivals.
The CD Getafe Femenino defender connected to a high ball from a set piece to fire past Kenyan goalkeeper Annette Kundu in the 12th minute as the Central Africans took an early lead at home.
Despite going down early, Starlets kept fighting and putting their hosts under pressure, and as a result, they came close to scoring through Corazon Aquino. Aquino tricked her opponent and created some shooting space inside the Cameroon box, but Michaely Bihima, in the Cameroon goal, denied her.
The Indomitable Lionesses would have scored the second goal in the 17th minute, but from a goalscoring space, Gabrielle Aboudi fired wide.
Another chance for Kenya to level matters came just after Cameroon filed to add the second. Goalkeeper Bihina, however, saved the day again as she managed to stop a goalward shot from Mwanahalima Adam, who was involved in a nice buildup with Teresa Engesha.
Engesha had her own chance to equalize for the unrelenting Starlets, but after a good set-up from Vivian Makokha, she ended up firing over the bar from close range.
After being pinned into their area for a number of minutes, Cameroon came out and threatened to score the second when Michaella Abam found some space to shoot, but her shot was deflected out for a fruitless corner in the 39th minute.
Kundu stood helpless as the Indomitable Lionesses almost claimed another goal in the second half. A second-half substitute, Nchout Ajara, was denied by the crossbar from close range as the Kenyan goalkeeper remained rooted to the ground.
Bedline Odemba's girls kept fighting and almost claimed an equaliser when Esse Akida, who was making her return to the national team setup and was part of the 2016 AWCON finals, failed to score from an open chance.
Akida, with the only open chance for the East Africans in the latter stages of the second half, fired inches wide as Cameroon held onto the slim lead, taking advantage into the second leg.
Starlets will host Cameroon on September 26 in Nairobi, and the winner will proceed to the second round of qualification.