18 April 2017

Kenya/Malawi: Harambee Stars, Malawi Fire Blanks in Machakos Friendly

Photo: Chris Omollo/The Nation
Harambee Stars midfielder Daniel Mwaura (centre) dribbles the ball during their international friendly match against Malawi at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on April 18, 2017.

Harambee Stars on Tuesday battled to a barren draw with The Flames of Malawi in an international friendly match at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

Stars, made up of locally based players only, could not break their opponents in the dour stalemate in front of a sizeable home crowd that included Caf president Ahmad Ahmad.

Ahmad refused requests for an interview after the match, saying that his was only an informal stopover from his official visit to Somalia that ended on Monday.

The former Madagascar Football Association president however provided the assurance that the hosting rights for 2018 African Nations Championship will remain in Kenya for as long as the Kenyan government is willing to offer the necessary support.

Despite enjoying large chunks of possession especially in the first half of the match, Harambee Stars' overall performance was lethargic.

More than half of the players in coach Stanley Okumbi's squad had taken part in the SportPesa Premier League just days before, and it took a tall in their performance against Malawi.

Barely 24 hours after featuring for his club Posta Rangers in their 1-0 win over Mathare United, goalkeeper Patrick Matasi started for Kenya in the absence of first choice Boniface Oluoch, who failed to secure permission from his club, Gor Mahia, for the match.

His teammates Joackins Atudo, who also wore the captain's armband, and defender Simon Mbugua also featured.

Kariobangi Sharks attacker Cavin Odongo started in place of Nzoia Sugar forward Masita Masuta who could not secure a passport in time.

Odongo had Kenya's first chance in the 23rd minute when he was put through by defender Bolton Omwenga, but his shot was too high.

Malawi threatened to score seven minutes later, but Simon Singa's well taken free kick went narrowly wide.

Gilbert Chirwa had another chance for the visitors in the 32nd minute but he flicked the ball out of target with only the Matasi to beat.

The Flames returned the better side in the second half as the hosts laboured in the bumpy playing surface.

But Ulinzi Stars ace Samuel Onyango came agonisingly close to opening the scoring 11 minutes after the restart, but his shot brushed the post off target.

Another chance fell on substitute Daniel Mwaura but his goal-bound shot was cleared by Malawi defender Stanley Sanudi.

"The players were tired. Next time we need to plan well because it is hard for them to play at the weekend and also be at their best today,” Stars coach Okumbi said after the match.

"In future, KPL and FKF need to come together and support each other. In such a situation, some of the league games could have been shelved for instance to allow national team players a chance to put in their best foot."

Malawi players were scheduled to leave the country Tuesday night for Madagascar for their first qualifying match of the 2018 Chan scheduled for this weekend.

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