Harambee Stars lost yet again against Uganda in their opening match of this year's Cecafa Tusker Cup but the optimism that met the 1-0 defeat underlies the unexpected gallant show that coach James Nandwa and his chosen ones delivered at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Namboole.
"We came into this game looking for a draw but I must admit that at the end, we deserved nothing less than a win. We will try and concentrate on sharpening our finishing touches ahead of the next game against south Sudan," said Nandwa, whose task of ending Kenya's decade-long wait to lift the regional title was not made easier by the decision to have two teams of home-based players for as many tournaments.
Stars officials, fans and even their opponents averred that Kenya had played a much better game and deserved more than they got. In fact, until the 71st minute when Geoffrey Kizito headed Bob Williamson's side in front of a free-kick from Iguma Dennis, Stars looked the most likely team to score.
A team that was short of it's 'A' list of home-based players curved the first real chance of the game after the second half resumed following a partial power blackout when Rama Salim just failed to connect with a cross from substitute Paul Were who had replaced Clifton Miheso.
Stars were so comfortable in their own skin against the much vaunted Ugandan attack of Emmanuel Okwi, Hamisi Kiiza and Umony Brian that even Joakins Atudo could pass the ball out of his own penalty box.
Debutant David Ochieng was the picture of calm in central midfield as was captain Antony Kimani who was organising things from his right back position while Duncan Ochieng had little saves to speak of until Kizito's header.
"Kenya were very difficult to break down and were dangerous from breaks with their long throws. Tthey are going to be a nuisance as the tournament progresses," said Williamson who has now not lost to Stars in his eight matches in charge.
Just after Kizito's goal, Humphrey Mieno could have pulled Kenya back to level terms but his shot went agonisingly wide. The introduction of Kevin Omondi and especially Enock Agwanda added more impetus to Stars attack.
Right at the death, the Sony sugar man's long throw just missed someone to drag beyond the goal-line after the Uganda defence failed to deal with it.
"The best team lost today and we are going to do everything in our powers to ensure they do not do so again," said FKF chairman Sam Nyamweya, who was watching the match alongside Youth and Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba and FKF vice chairman Robert Asembo. Nandwa has promised to go for broke in the match against new comers Sudan tomorrow.