NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 26 – Kenya’s dream of making it into next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, were brought to a screeching halt after the Emerging Stars were held to a 0-0 draw by visiting Sudan who won 2-0 on aggregate.
Sudan, coached by former Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards coach Zdravko Logarusic ensured the first leg 2-0 victory in Khartoum last week stood and they now book a slot in the next qualification round where a date with Nigeria awaits.
Heading into the game, Kenya needed to win by three clear goals to advance while a 2-0 score-line would have taken the game to penalties.
However, the home side was naïve in the final third and failed to utilize much of the possession and chances infront of goal.
Head coach Francis Kimanzi made alterations to the squad that lost 2-0 away in Khartoum. Keeper Timothy Odhiambo started between the sticks ahead of Brian Bwire while in midfield, his Ulinzi Stars teammate Ibrahim Shambi partnered Sven Yidah who came in place of Teddy Osok.
Upfront, James Kinyanjui and Piston Mutamba started ahead of the injured duo of Jaffary Owiti and John Avire.
But it was the visitors who came close to breaking the deadlock within the opening two minutes when some nervy defending from Johnston Omurwa gifted danger-man Yagoub Mohammed the ball but the striker’s low shot from the edge of the area was well collected by Odhiambo.
Omurwa should have made amends for his defensive softness 10 minutes later on the other end when James Mazembe recycled the ball into the areas to find the defender who sneaked in behind his markers, but his header at the backpost went wide.
Though looking panicked already, the emerging stars threw everything in attack but the composure in the final third was always missing.
Yidah and Shambi had shots from distance but neither troubled the defense nor the keeper.
Another blunder from Omurwa in the 25th minute almost gifted Sudan a chance but left back David Owino made a timely tackle to save his Mathare United teammate’s blushes whacking the ball away from Waleed Bakhiet’s feet after he was fed through by Yagoub.
On the other end, the home side had a freekick off Ovella, but the winger could not put enough weight on the effort despite lifting the ball over the wall allowing the keeper an easy catch.
A minute to the break, Kenya had a brilliant opportunity when Kinyanjui cut into the box squaring the ball back to Mutamba who was at the edge of the six yard box but the lanky forward miscued his shot.
At the start of the second half, Kinyanjui who had struggled to make an impact in the game was hauled off for Sidney Lokale as Kimanzi went in for a 4-4-2 system to try and hack in the three required goals.
Kenya had even more chances to score and just seven minutes in, Shambi was presented with a great opportunity when a corner floated in by James Mazembe found him isolated at the back post but his shot was over.
The home side had won the corner after Sudan’s impressive keeper smothered behind Ovella’s effort with a freekick behind.
Sudan had a glorious opportunity to sink the game when some nervous defending saw Yagoub win the ball to face keeper Odhiambo one on one, but his shot was well saved by the custodian.
Five minutes later, Stars had a brilliant opportunity when Ovella played David Owino through on the left, but his low shot was saved by the keeper with Mutamba’s effort at back-heeling the rebound was awry.
Kimanzi’s men put everything in attack, but they couldn’t get the composure to finish.
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