Okumbi frustrated as Cranes strike late to deny Stars

Harambee Stars players celebrates Michael Olunga's goal against Uganda Cranes during their International Friendly at ...
Harambee Stars players celebrates Michael Olunga's goal against Uganda Cranes during their International Friendly at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on March 23, 2017. Photo/Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com

Harambee Stars First Coach Stanley Okumbi rued missed chances as the Uganda Cranes clawed their way back in the dying minutes to force a 1-1 draw against the home side in a friendly match played at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos on Thursday.

The Stars looked on course to a narrow win over their neighbours after Michael Olunga put them ahead in the 35th minute but substitute Hassan Waiswa broke the locals’ hearts in the 87th.

For the Stars – and for Okumbi – the result dented hopes for a third straight win but nonetheless saw their unbeaten record stretch to nine games.

Okumbi blamed his front two, Olunga and Jesse Were, for failing to put away their chances as his squad failed to seal victory against the old enemy once again.

“I’m not happy because we should have won this. We created so many chances; about four clear ones but we could not put them away. I expect more from Olunga and Were because they are scoring for their clubs, why not the national team?” a visibly disappointed Okumbi posed.

The hosts were the first to threaten but Olunga’s low drive in the second minute gave little trouble to Cranes goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan.

The Guizhou Zhicheng striker was presented his second chance moments later but shot wastefully wide after a neat through pass from his strike partner Were.

At the quarter-hour mark, the Cranes found their first opening with Geoffrey Sserunkuma forcing Patrick Matasi to a save with a belter of a shot.

The Posta Rangers shot-stopper showed incredible recovery to get up and push Shafik Batambuze’s rebound round the post.

Olunga and Were continued to spurn chance after chance but it was the former that redeemed himself first, storming down the right flank past Habib Kavuma and drilling his shot into the back of the net.

Uganda Head Coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic withdrew Tusker FC’s Batambuze and brought on Brian Majwega immediately after the restart as he sought to find a supply line to his forwards.

His counterpart Okumbi responded by introducing Simon Mbugua for the injured Musa Mohammed and Mark Makwatta for Noah Wafula.

Olunga also made way for winger Paul Were who was called up to the squad following the withdrawal of Ayub Timbe from the tie.

Robinson Kamura almost made it 2-0 but his expertly taken free-kick came off the woodwork with Were blasting the rebound over.

The Cranes made two more changes, with Gor Mahia defender Godfrey Walusimbi rested for Emmanuel Okwi and Niko Wadada replacing Kirizesto Ntambi.

The tide seemed to turn in favour of the visitors in the last quarter as Okumbi opted to reinforce his midfield by bringing on Bernard Mang’oli and Osborne Monday for Samuel Onyango and Johanna Omolo.

The substitutions did nothing to prevent the Cranes from finding a way back as substitute Waiswa capitalised on a lapse in concentration to pull his side level.

Next up for the Stars will be the highly rated DRC Congo on Sunday at the same venue.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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