South Sudan stun blunt Harambee Stars in FIFA friendly

South Sudan stun blunt Harambee Stars in FIFA friendly

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga (L), tussles for the ball with South Sudan's Freedom Rashid during an international friendly match staged at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on September12, 2023. South Sudan won 0-1. Photo/SportPicha.

South Sudan inflicted a painful 1-0 loss to Kenya in an international friendly at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani Tuesday evening, the youngest African nation earning their first ever victory over their neighbours in Nairobi.

Ugandan-born Titto Okello scored the only goal for the Bright Stars, as worryingly lackluster Harambee Stars struggled to replicate the exciting show exhibited in last week’s 1-2 victory over Qatar in Doha.

While the last whistle not only announced a sweet but huge victory for the fast rising South Sudan in the world of football much to the chagrin of Kenyan fans at Kasarani, it also opened a debate of where Harambee Stars really are ahead of the November 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

It could be seen all over the faces of the Kenyan fans at the stadium, probably wondering how fast the mojo witnessed in the match against Qatar had faded away. Not only the fans were in such a mood, as coach Firat also seemed lost in the last minutes of the match, probably pondering why the ball possession could not be translated into goals.   

In what was his eighth match in charge of Harambee Stars, Engin Firat made a single change in the squad that started in the Qatar tie, introducing Brian Mandela to partner Joseph Stanley Okumu at the centre-back, in the absence of Johnstone Omurwa.

According to coach Firat, he excused Omurwa to join his Portuguese side after the Qatar duty as he needed to cement his “hard earned place” at his club.

Within the first minute, a miscalculated move by Okumu trying a back pass to Mandela was stolen by Okello, and quickly shot past KCB goalkeeper Bryne Odhiambo for the opener.

It was so uncharacteristic of the French League 1 side Reims defender, one of the heroes of the now famous Doha victory, in which his powerful header opened the scores. 

Kenya responded with a flurry of attacks, which yielded nine corners by the end of first-half, with real chances to score but a solid South Sudan backline did well to smother the attempts.

Elvis Rupia dashed down the right channel leaving his marker and found Captain Michael Olunga in the box, calmly crossed to unmarked Muguna right at the middle but was denied by keeper Malik Majak, who excellently parried out for a corner.

Richard Odada was particularly impressive in the midfield, roaming well and passing accurately, initiating moves which kept Masoud Juma and Rupia busy at either flanks.

Juma thought he had won a penalty after his marker handled the ball in the box, but had the advantage of shielding his handball having fallen down in tussle for the ball, and the referee continued the play.

Just before the break, Okello had a chance to double the lead after calmly dodging past Mandela and Akumu outside the box, only to blast the ball over the bar.

Two minutes into the second half, Firat withdrew Rupia for Amos Nondi, as Kenya’s chase for an equaliser continued in earnest.

Mawa Christopher stood out in the South Sudan defense, capitalizing on his athleticism to stop Kenyan forwards, moreso Juma whose duty was on the left, the channel he was manning.

With Sudan comfortably sitting back and the clock fast ticking, Firat made more changes, withdrawing Muguna for Duke Abuya and Juma for Clark Oduor – the latter playing his only second match for Kenya.

Odada spotted unmarked Olunga and sent him a through pass just outside the box, but was uncharacteristically slow and allowed his only left opponent – the keeper Majak to block his way to the disappointment of expectant fans. He however managed to feed Clark Oduor on the left wing, whose cross deep into the box found no one to finish.

Then Firat tossed his last dice, throwing Moses Shummah of Kakamega Homeboyz into the fray 1o minutes to the clock in the place of Anthony Akumu.  He should have tapped in for a leveler had he been quick enough to beat the keeper to a cross from Abuya two minutes after his introduction, but his effort was not enough.

In the 88th, the Bright Stars almost doubled from a free-kick, the ball bouncing into the path of Adebo Wani, off the Kenyan defense wall but his shot flew wide.

But it was Harambee Stars who had a clearer chance at the stoppage, as Nondi’s fine cross across the goal missed anyone to connect, including Olunga who desperately dived in an attempt to head in.


Kenya Harambee Stars Engin Firat South Sudan Titto Okello

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