Nairobi — Harambee Stars captain Dennis Oliech fired a brilliant shot to lead Kenya to a thrilling 2-1 victory over Guinea Bissau in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.
The AJ Auxerre striker had promised Kenyans a goal -- and he delivered it -- at the most crucial moment when tears were already flowing from the eyes of Kenyans after Bissau had equalised a Mike Baraza goal with nine minutes on the clock remaining.
Kenyans know their chances of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 remain slim but the victory over Bissau rekindles some hope.
Substitute Baraza had given Stars the lead in the 58th minute but the visitors equalised nine minutes from time through Luciano Texeira.
But with time running out, a corner was half cleared to Oliech who unleashed a 25-yard shot into the top corner setting off wild celebrations at the stadium.
The win sees Kenya increase its points tally to seven in Group J, keeping alive their slim hopes of qualifying for next year's continental showpiece. Kenya move to second in Group J with seven points. Uganda -- who play Angola in Luanda today -- have 10 points, while their hosts have six. Bissau have three.
Kenya will now hope that Angola can beat the Cranes on Sunday. Harambee Stars head coach Zedekiah Otieno said he was happy with the victory, and was satisfied with his players' display.
"You all know we were so desperate for a win. The players were too and that's why they were anxious."
Oliech's goal was reminiscent of the one he scored against Cape Verde in 2003 to take Kenya to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.
All seemed lost when Texeira had taken advantage of sloppy defending to strike a thunderous shot in the 81st minute for the visitors' equaliser.
But as fans began streaming out after Bissau's equaliser, Oliech was there to remind them that he remains one of the best goal poachers in the game.
The AJ Auxerre striker scored with a scorcher halfway through the Bissau half.
It was a game that Kenya needed to win by at least four goals to reduce the goal difference but coach Otieno started with a squad that was more conservative with only Oliech showing hunger for goals.
The skipper missed his first chance in the 14th minute hitting out a seater after being put through by Kevin Ochieng.
Then in the 19th minute, Ivanildos Cassama's free kick brought some discomfort in the Kenyan goal but goalkeeper Arnold Origi blocked from the goal line before Anthony Kimani hit the ball out.
Oliech was at it again in the 24th minute but agin his shot went wide before Kevin Ochieng's seemingly feeble shot was saved by Bissau keeper Jonas Mendes.
The second half started with the fans yearning for a goal.
Otieno brought it Mike Barasa fro Kevin Ochieng' and Stephen Waruru for a colourless Titus Mulama.
And Barasa, the second best striker in the Kenyan Premier League sent the fans celebrating in the 64th minute tapping in a cross from Jamal Mohammed.
At least the goal gave Kenyans something to cheer but it was not safe for them and that proved in the 81st minute when Texeira pulled Bissau level.
But it was not over. Oliech, always there for the Stars, came to the rescue with a powerful 94th minute winner.
Kenya, with seven points, must beat Uganda with a margin of five goals in Kampala next and hope that Angola -- who play Uganda today -- win.
Kenya will rue the day the team went to Bissau disjointed. Football Kenya Limited took the team there too late, then there were differences between top players, which led to a 1-0 defeat.
Subsequent home draws to Uganda and a home win against Angola have not helped Stars' course.
"We have to look foward praying that things go our way," said Stars coach Zedekiah Otieno.