Kampala — Abdalla Juma scored the decisive penalty that helped Kenya clinch a place in the finals of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup after they beat Zanzibar 4-2 on post match penalties.
The match had ended 2-2 in regulation time with Stars coming back twice to hold the Heroes. Mike Barasa, Joakins Atudo, Edwin Lavatsa scored the others for Kenya while Khamis Mcha and Othma Alliy missed their efforts for the clove islanders.
Coach James Nandwa included Kevin Omondi in the starting line up just a day after he returned from Nairobi while Paul Were had to contend with a place on the bench.
Zanzibar had the first opportunity with Juma Jaku shooting feebly at Duncan Oochieng after making a good run into the box with just two minutes on the clock
Stars defence looked rattled for the first time in this tournament as Jaku, Mcha and Hamad Omar tied them in knots. Humphrey Mieno fashioned Kenya's first chance with his cross shot that sailed wide off the crossbar.
Omondi who was getting much off the ball made his first notable contribution forcing a fruitless corner after 15 minutes. A minute later he sent a dangerous freekcik that Nadir Haroub cleared.
Zanzibars frontmen were full of running and it came as no surprise when they took the lead in the 19th minute after Suleiman Kassim made a run from deep midfield and sent away Omar who escaped the attention of Joakins Atudo to cross for Khamis to tap the ball home and give Zanzibar a deserved lead.
The goal seemed to spring Kenya into action and twice Miheso Clifton had chances to make a good pass or finish better but he did not. However in the 27th minute a hopeful cross set panic in the heart of a normally calm Haroub who under pressure from Mike Barasa headed the ball over his onrushing keeper to gift Kenya the equalisier.
Suddenly Stars were the more dangerous side with again Barasa nearly punishing a hesitated clearance from Ali Mwadini only for the ball to come off the upright.
The AFC Leopards man had another chance to put Kenya in front but Mwadini saved and Miheso could not tuck away the rebound. Omar paved way for Seif Rashid early in the second half while Kenya introduced Were for Miheso as both teams reshuffled their attack.
Omondi won a free kick in the 56th minute and it was delivered by Juma with the second ball falling to Rama Salim just inside the box but his effort came off David Ochieng.
Zanzibar countered when Seif was fouled with Khamis's inswinging crossforcing Duncan Ochieng to tip it over for a fruitless corner. Were made his customary runs down the left with no end product as Kenya were on the ascendancy. Edwin Lavatsa came on for Rama.
Then in the 73rd minute straight from the blue Jaku was sent scampering through only to be hacked down by Owino with the referee pointing to the spot amid Kenyan protestations from skipper Anthony Kimani who was yellow carded. Aggrey Morris stepped up to calmly slot the ball past Ochieng.
But in the 80th minute Stars were level after Barasa headed home Juma's precise corner The two teams could not be separated after ninety minutes forcing the extra time which equally could not bring a winner forcing the penalties
Zanzibar's Ahmed got the first red card of the tourney for head butting Kenyan substitute Victor Ochieng who had to be stretchered off in obvious pain.
Kenya will now meet the winner between hosts and defending champions Uganda or Tanzania in the championship final. Cranes and Kilimanjaro Stars were meeting in the other semi final later yesterday.