Stars stunned in Mauritius

Monday, June 19th, 2023 03:00 | By
Harambee Stars
Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga leads the team out of the tunnel before they faced Mauritius yesterday. PHOTO/Courtesy

Kenya ended their Four Nations tournament with a 1-0 defeat against hosts Mauritius at the National Sports Complex in Port Luis on Sunday.

Striker Jean Saramandif capitalised on a mistake by Harambee Stars goalkeeper Bryne Odhiambo to hit the back of the net for what turned out to be the match winner.

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat made three changes from the team that defeated Pakistan 1-0 in their opener, Benson Omalla came in for his senior debut to replace Moses Shummah, Clifton Miheso replaced Aboud Omar and Victor Omune benched Daniel Sakari.

It was Kenya, who looked lively in the opening exchanges as they almost took the lead in the sixth minute when Miheso released Omalla with a pin-point cross but the Gor Mahia forward delayed to unleash the ball towards goal, allowing Mauritius defender Jean Vincent to clear the danger.

In the 11th minute, Miheso became the first player to enter the referees book after he was yellow carded for a clumsy tackle.

Five minutes later, Mauritius almost doubled their lead but defender David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng reacted quickly to clear the ball with a diving header before it landed on the feet of Mauritius forward Steven Nazira.

However, Kenya were finally punished in the 22nd minute when sloppy goalkeeping by KCB custodian Odhiambo, who was making his second appearance for the national team, allowed striker Saramandif to sneak home the ball from the far post for the opener.

Harambee Stars struggled to contain Mauritius as they lost the midfield battle. Unlike against Pakistan, Anthony Akumu and Richard Odada, who was name man of the match in the slim victory, were not solid enough as they crumbled under pressure.

In the 38th minute, midfielder Kevin Bru became the first Mauritius player to be booked for a foul as the hosts held on to go into the half-time break with a 1-0 lead.

On resumption, Firat made a double change, Shummah came in for off colour Omalla while Omune was withdrawn for Omar. At the hour mark, Firat made a defensive change, as he brought in Sakari for Miheso.

Shummah’s introduction brought some sense of urgency in the attacking area but Mauritius, who had lost the opener 3-1 against Djibouti, were able to deal with every challenge thrown at them. In the 76th minute, Kenya’s Odada was yellow carded for a dangerous foul on Vincent.

With the outcome, Kenya finished with three points, while Djibouti, who got a walkover after Kenya’s late arrival, finished with nine points, including six from their victories - against Pakistan 3-1 and Mauritius 3-1, to be crowned the tournament winners. Meanwhile, Mauritius came second with six points after their initial 3-0 victory over Pakistan.

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