Harambee Stars reached 2017 Cecafa final after edging out a stubborn Burundi side 1-0 in the semis on Thursday.
Whyvonne Isuza’s extra-time goal was enough to send the hosts to the final of the tournament and will now face the winner between champions Uganda and Zanzibar.
Kenya started the game on a sloppy note but picked themselves up in the second half, though it was the extra time move in the 97th minute that proved most important point of the game when AFC Leopards midfielder Isuza curled in a left-foot shot into Burundi’s top corner.
Kenya was saved by the crossbar in the 13th minute when Shaban Hussein’s header from a Laudit Mavugo’s free-kick hit the woodwork, but captain Musa Mohammed stepped in to clear the danger as Stars’ defence struggled to cope under the hot weather in Kisumu City.
Former Sofapaka man, Fiston Abdoul gave Kenyan defence a hard time on the right flank with his electric pace. Dennis Shikayi was blunt on the right in the opening minutes, forcing wingback Ovella Ochieng ’ to fall back.
That created some room for Burundi in the midfield, allowing the guests to easily win the ball from a sluggish George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo.
Burundi was denied what looked like a clear penalty when Mohammed made contact with Trezer Ndikumani inside Stars’ box but the referee waved play on.
Nahimana Jonathan kept Burundi in the game when he denied Ovella Ochieng’ from point blank with a clinical save after the pacy Kariobangi Sharks winger raced to the opponents box but could not get past the big Burundian custodian in the 40th minute.
Kenya survived another Hussein scare in the 47th minute when the marauding Burundian made his way into opponent’s box but Shikayi saved a struggling Paul Put’s side the embarrassment of going to the break trailing.
Kenya resumed the second half a much-improved side, creating three corners in a span of 10-minutes. With the clock ticking under the merciless sun in the Lakeside City, frustration crept in. The match almost took a physical turn following Patillah Omoto’s dangerous tackle on Moussa Omar in the 60th minute.
The physicality of the match saw Kenya suffers a major blow when captain Mohammed left the field of play injured in the 74th minute. Duncan Otieno came in his place even as Kenya struggled for a breakthrough. Oburu also followed him out later in the match after suffering what looked like a serious injury.
Oburu went down injured, forcing coach Put to bring in Samuel Onyango in the 93rd minute. Just three minutes into the match, the Ulinzi Stars winger found Isuza with his cross from the left and the Ingwe man unleashed a left-foot shot for the goal that sent Kenya to the final.
Harambee Stars starting XI: Patrick Matasi (GK), Musa Mohammed (C), Jockins Atudo, Sikhayi Dennis, Wesley Onguso, Patilah Omotto, Whyvonne Isuza, Ovella Ochieng, George Odhiambo, Ernest Wendo and Vincent Oburu.
Reserves: Boniface Oluoch, Gabriel Andika, Said Tsuma, Bernard Ochieng, Masoud Juma, Charles Momanyi, Wellington Ochieng, Dunacan Otieno,Kepha Aswani and Crispin Oduor.
Burundi starting XI: Nahimana Jonathan (GK), Hererimana Leon, Kwizera Pierre (C), Ndikumana Tresor, Nsimirimana David, Moussa Omar, Duhayindavyi Gael, Nahimana Shassir, Shaban Hussein, Mavugo Laudit and Fiston abdoul.
Reserves: Zarakaza Arthur, Rrukundo Onesme, Nahimana Steve, Ndayishimye Youssuf, Shaka Bienvenue, Moussa Mossi, Herimana Moussa, Urasenga Cedrick and Ndoriyobija Eric.