Heroes too bright for the Stars, qualify for Cecafa semis
Zanzibar Heroes held Kenya’s Harambee Stars to a barren draw at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Saturday to become the first team to qualify for the semi finals of the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup.
The point earned took the Heroes points tally to seven atop group ‘A’ while the Stars are on five points from a win and two draws.
Rwanda are third with four while Libya and Tanzania, who exited earlier on follow in that sequence.
Rwanda had recorded their only win in the tourney, a 2-1 against Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Stars in an early kickoff at the same venue, which could not help much having lost two and one of their previous matches.
Stars coach Paul Put was cautious not to field Kariobangi Sharks ace striker Masoud Juma, who is nursing an ankle injury. The Belgian then dropped Mathare United’s Chrispin Oduor from his lineup that battled to a 0-0 draw against Libya on Tuesday, starting with Kepha Aswani and Ovella Ochieng’ in their places.
Zanzibar head coach Suleiman ‘Morocco’ Hemed hailed his charges for getting it right tactically’ against the 2013 champions.
“We had a very solid defence, well organized and our goalkeeper was in top form. We came here as underdogs but have proved to our critics we are worthy competitors. We want to finish on a high note in the last game against Libya, so no relaxing at all,” said the coach in a post match interview.
The result leaves Put in a must win situation in the last group fixture against Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Stars on Monday to finish top of the group. A win will still not be enough for Kenya to finish on the summit, thus Put will hope Zanzibar loses against Libya who have not won a match so far.
He has called on his players to show brilliance before opponent’s goals, to avoid wastage which he says cost them maximum points.
“We had good chances in the first half and a few in the second but we were unlucky. We’ve been dominating all our games creating chances but at times you need brilliance to make the difference,
“I believe we can handle the pressure in our next game and win to qualify. We’ve to believe in ourselves and try to score,” said Put.
Zanzibar had an enormous task in the early stages of the clash, with Stars’ flankers George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo on the left and Ochieng Ovella on the left sending fine crosses into the box. However, Aswani was not swift enough to convert them.
AFC Leopards attacker Whyvonne Isuza forced Zanzibar custodian Mohamed Abdulrahman to punch out his h
curler in the 63rd minute, after Sofapaka’s Wesley Onguso’s had thrown in into the box from the touchline on the left channel.
Both Ibrahim Hamad and Issa Juma called Kenya’s goalkeeper Patrick Matasi to action in the 70th and 74th minutes, with the visitors growing more vicious towards the end.
He was attended to thrice by the medical staff at the goal, each after a spectacular save from the islanders strikes.
Not even substitutes Vincent Oburu and Oduor could break the deadlock, Juma’s absence conspicuously telling the striking problem Put has to endure as he builds his future team.
Kenya 0-0 Zanzibar
Tanzania 1-2 Rwanda
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