Stanley Okumbi’s wait for a win with the National football team Harambee Stars is over after he guided Kenya to its first success in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign after a hard fought 2-1 win over Congo Brazzaville.
Prince Oniangue opened the scoring in the 19th minute with a controversial penalty before Ayub Timbe restored parity three minutes later. Eric Johanna then confirmed three points for Kenya with his first international goal.
After going for four matches without a victory, Okumbi’s charges showed hunger to give the success starved Harambee Stars fans something to smile about and Victor Wanyama led from the front in the fifth minute when he tried to set up Michael Olunga clean through on goal but his pass was intercepted by Clevin Dikamona.
Two minutes later Olunga pounced on a lobbed pass over the top from Francis Kahata but the IF Djurgardens striker could not keep his effort down. The hosts’ bright start was blotted by a controversial call in the 18th minute when Ismail Gonzalez Was adjudged to have shoved Thievy Bifouma in the box when contesting for an aerial ball.
Prince Oniangue sauntered up to the penalty spot with the languor of a man on a Sunday afternoon stroll to expertly slot the ball into the bottom right corner beyond Boniface Oluoch’s reach.
Even before the celebrations settled on the Red Devils’ bench, Ayub Timbe drew the hosts level. The Lierse winger pounced on a long ball from Boniface Oluoch to glide into the box before firing a thunderous bolt beyond the despairing dive of Christopher Mafoumbi.
A ragged period of play ensued thereafter before Victor Wanyama tested Mafoumbi with a long range drive that he did well to gather with bemusing simplicity. Moments later Timbe could have doubled his tally when Eric Johanna embarked on a mazy run on the left cut into his favorite right boot in the process leaving four Congo Brazzaville defenders on the bum.
The Mathare United forward slipped a neat through ball into Timbe’s path but Mafoumbi’s positioning was spot on to parry Timbe’s shot at his near post. Two minutes later Kenya could have fallen behind after Brian Mandela’s headed clearance from Kelvin Ndinga’s cross cannoned off the bar with Oluoch well beaten.
The second half started on a sour note for the hosts after Wanyama was booked for a reckless tackle on Thievy Bifouma. That moment did not slow him down as he won a freekick just outside the box six minutes later that was sent wide by Timbe.
Okumbi decided to play his first card introducing Anthony Akumu for Gonzalez and his opposite number replied shortly after when he pulled out Oniangue for Jordan Massengo yet it was Kenya who continued to dominate.
Their ascendancy was crowned in the 67th minute when Eric Johanna calmly controlled a long ball over the top from Wanyama before beating his marker for pace. What followed thereafter was pure class as he showed composure to lob the ball over an advancing Mafoumbi.
Ten minutes later, Timbe could have doubled the lead but he shot agonizingly wide when one on one with Mafoumbi. Okumbi looked content to retreat to his defensive cocoon as Kenya defended with their lives to ensure they bagged maximum points.
A late scare saw Oluoch go full stretch to palm out a shot from Francis Nganga before the final whistle sent the Moi International Sports Centre into a frenzy as fans savoured the invaluable win in style.
The result leaves Kenya bottom of Group E with four points still without a chance of qualifying for the continental finals in Gabon.
Starting XI: Boniface Oluoch, Musa Mohammed, David Owino, Brian Mandela, Eric Ouma, Victor Wanyama, Ismail Gonzalez (55' Anthony Akumu), Eric Johanna (73' Ali Abondo), Francis Kahata, Michael Olunga, Ayub Timbe (90' Paul Were)
Subs: David Okello (GK), Eugene Asike, Jesse Were, Aboud Omar
Starting XI: Christopher Mafoumbi (GK), Prince Oniangue (65' Massenga Jordan), Francis Nganga, Marvin Boubry, Lepicie Mael, Mercil Ndockyt, Delvin Ndinga, Dore Ferebory, Nguessi Ondamaf, Clevin Dikamona, Thievy Bifouma
Subs: Ndzila Pavelh (GK), Igor Nganga, Ibara Vinny, Bouka Moutu, , Malonga Dominique, Chris Malonga