Sierra Leone 2-1 Kenya: Poor start for Harambee Stars in qualifiers
Kenya came into the match as favourites considering they had gone eleven matches without testing defeat under Okumbi

A ten man Harambee Stars started the 2019 Afcon qualifier on a wrong footing after the went down 2-1 to hosts Sierra Leone on Saturday. 

Kenya came into the match as favourites considering they had gone eleven matches without testing defeat. But it was Leone Stars, who settled early with the visitors struggling. First chance came in the 3rd minute for the home team, when Kariobangi Sharks striker Masoud Juma, who was making his debut, gave away a free-kick in the promising position, but it was not effectively utilized as the ball was cleared off the danger zone.

Ayub Timbe was the first to go into the referee's books after protesting what seemed like a foul in the sixth minute, as the opponents continued pressurizing the East African side. Four minutes later, the Leone Stars were gifted a corner by Brian Mandela after a miscommunication between him and his goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch. However, it bore no fruits.

After a quarter an hour, Kenya did well to break from the right, Timbe going past his marker, however, his cross was a little too high for towering Michael Olunga with the goalkeeper well beaten. Nevertheless, Kenya could have taken the lead in the 17th minute when Juma was played in well by Erick Johanna, however, the goalkeeper did well to deny him.

It was a costly miss as five minutes later, Sierra Leone went ahead courtesy of Julius Wobay. The midfielder run all the way from the midfield unmarked, and buried a well weighed cross from the left by Kei Kamara. In the 25th minute, captain Victor Wanyama could have brought his side on level terms, but his header flew over the bar.

The rising visitors continued pressing for an equalizer, but were undone once again by keeper Maurice Solomon, who denied Wanyama after a good cut back by Johanna, with the rebound falling kindly to Olunga whose fierce shot struck the bar and bounced to safety. Kenya finished the first half with ten men after Brian Mandela was sent off after a mistimed tackle against Alhassan Kamara.

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David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng’ was introduced in place of Masoud Juma after the break, as coach Stanley Okumbi aimed at balancing the team and getting something from the match. But Leone Stars continued pressing and in the 57th minute, striker Alhassan Kamara was played well in the eighteen yard box but he failed to hit the target. Five minutes later it was the hosts again, this time round, Hassan Sesay cut in from the left, found Alhassan whose effort came off the post.

Samuel Onyango was brought in for Erick Johanna in the 66th minute as Kenya pushed for a goal, but it was the hosts who doubled the advantage in the 67th minute courtesy of Umaru BanguraKei Kamara was brought down in the danger zone by Erick Ouma, and the referee pointed to the spot.

The visitors managed to get a consolation in the 74th minute courtesy of Olunga, who curled in a beautiful free-kick past the goalkeeper after the defender had handled the ball outside the eighteen yard box. It was a consolation for the East African side and a first defeat for Okumbi in twelve matches, and a bad start to the qualifiers.  

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