Five-star Harambee Stars thrash Seychelles in Abidjan
It was a one-sided affair all through, and a critic would be excused to ask for more as wasteful Stars had clear chances to score more than 10, in their second match of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
It is not surprising that another Group F competitor Ivory Coast on Friday hammered Seychelles 9-0, going by the cluelessness exhibited in the match, as Stars made light work of the Island nation.
Coach Engin Firat made two changes in the best 11 which started against Gabon Thursday last week, introducing Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma in the left-back role, in the place of Aboud Omar as Eric Johanna started in the place of Kenneth Muguna.
Olunga needed just three minutes to open the floodgates capitalizing on a miscalculated back pass by Ellie Sopha, calmly beating his two markers before shooting a low one past goalkeeper Carlos Simeon, who was then advancing to block.
Two minutes later, Olunga grabbed his brace. Simeon punched his powerful shot straight back to his right foot, allowing him to unleash another screamer into the net as the Seychelles custodian tried to recollect himself.
By the quarter-hour mark, Olunga had threatened twice again, while Juma and Johanna had come close too, once each.
But it was a tap-in opportunity near the six-yard box missed by Juma as the ball crossed across the Seychelles goal from the right, which marked another instance of quite disappointing wastefulness.
A mishap by Kenya’s defence almost gave the hosts a cheap goal, but goalkeeper Patrick Matasi was alert enough to collect the ball which bounced off Nick France Labiche as Amos Nondi attempted to clear.
Olunga was unable to beat the keeper, Simeon, in a one-on-one situation within the box, a real chance to seal a hat-trick slipping off the Al Duhail goal poacher.
In the 28th minute, Olunga shot over the bar with only the keeper to beat, losing another chance to make it 3-0, from a sumptuous cross by midfielder Anthony Akumu.
A hungry Olunga was at it again in the 37th, this time from the left side of the box, hitting a low one which rattled keeper Simeon’s leg before spiraling out, as the Kenyan captain frantically attempted to stretch for a rebound.
Five minutes to the break, Eric Ouma sent a fine cross from the left channel to unmarked Onyango, who poorly shot wide, with the Seychelles defence clearly lost.
The AIK man Ouma crossed a similar one yet again in the 44th to find Richard Odada, who was calm to stop, but could not finish the move.
Just before the break, Juma made it 3-0 after cleverly losing his marker, building from Johanna’s throw ball, as he headed the ball down before unleashing a powerful shot into the right corner of the net.
At the restart, Ouma, who had missed last week’s 2-1 loss to Gabon due to injury, was withdrawn for Omar – the Kenya Police defender.
A minute later, Olunga was well picked by Dennis Ng’ang’a, ran into the box but his obvious shot in a tight angle was easily blocked for a corner. Juma was disappointed his striking partner failed to locate him, as he was asking for the ball in the middle.
In the 52nd, Omar floated a loose ball into the box, and Helton Monnaie almost scored into his own net as he attempted to clear, but hit the post. The ball bounced back to Olunga, whose shot also rattled the woodwork, returning to Johanna who agonizingly shot wide – and Seychelles survived yet again.
In the 56th, Matasi thwarted an attempt by Rhio Damoo and quickly released Olunga on the right, who dashed into the box but could not cross perfectly with Juma and Johanna lurking.
Juma would replicate a similar move at the full hour-mark, this time failing to pass Olunga who was waiting in the middle, his tight angle attempt rolling meters from the goal post.
But Onyango, the Gor Mahia man in his only third match for Harambee Stars rekindled the fire for goals in the 62nd, finishing off Omar’s cross powerfully for the fourth of the day.
With 25 minutes left, coach Firat withdrew Johanna and Juma for Ayub Timbe and Omalla, the latter making his debut in a competitive Stars’ match.
As the clock ticked towards the 70th minute, a well taken free kick by Gervais Waye-Hive almost gave Seychelles a consolation, but was headed out for a corner by skipper Olunga.
Three minutes later unmarked Omalla was set up by his Gor teammate Onyago in the box, and made no mistake as he scored the fifth, his first for the national team.
There was a scare in Kenya's goal immediately after Omalla’s celebration, but Matasi stole the ball from the feet of Brandon Rashid Labrosse, just before he pulled the trigger.
A magnanimous Firat also gave new call up Nabi Kibunguchy and Timothy Ouma a chance to partake in the win, introducing them just five minutes before the final whistle.
The win means Kenya has three points in group F, same as Burundi but with a superior goal difference of positive four, while Ivory Coast who beat Gambia 0-2 Monday evening top the group with six points.
Gabon, having beaten Kenya and Burundi, has six points too, but has an inferior goal difference compared to Ivory Coast, who boast of a massive positive 12.
Kenya’s next matches of the campaign will be in June 2024, against Burundi and Ivory Coast respectively.
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