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Afcon 2021 Qualifiers: Why Kenya's draw against Egypt feels like a win

00:13 EAT 16/11/2019
Michael Olunga of Kenya celebrates goal against Tanzania.
The East African side came from a goal down to clinch a 1-1 draw amidst some testing circumstances in Alexandria

“I do not think Stars are in their best shape to play the Pharaohs on Thursday,” Posta Rangers head coach Sammy Omollo told Goal ahead of this week's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. “Preparations are not only done on the pitch, but they also involve a lot, including accommodation.

"The sideshows we have been seeing regarding accommodation in Egypt might affect the team psychologically," he added. "It will be a tall order for Kenya to get a positive result from their hosts.”
 
Omollo spoke his mind prior to Kenya’s match against Egypt in Alexandria, in the Harambee Stars' opening fixture during the qualification campaign for the Africa Cup of Nations.

The East African side had endured well-publicised accommodation problems in Egypt, with players - at one point - threatened with being kicked out of their hotel due to unpaid bills.

The government, through the Ministry of Sports and the Football Kenya Federation (FKF), found themselves embroiled in a tussle regarding the payments, and it took the intervention of top officials in the Egyptian government to ensure Kenya were not thrown out of their hotel.

When Mahmoud Kahraba scored in favour of the Pharaohs in the 38th minute, many Kenyans believed a flood of goals would follow. However, Kashiwa Reysol striker Michael Olunga struck in the 67th minute to ensure Kenya picked up a valuable point away from home.
 
The draw was like a win for Francis Kimanzi's charges who came into the match as underdogs. In the previous four meetings between the pair, Kenya had conceded 12 goals with a return of just one. That one strike had come in a 5-1 defeat back in 2011, and there was little in the history books
 
Only a few optimistic fans could expect the Harambee Stars to take a point from the seven-time Afcon champions, while the injuries to keeper Patrick Matasi and winger Ayub Timbe early into the game made the task much trickier for Kenya.

However, there are positives to take from the fixture, which felt almost like a victory for the Stars considering the circumstances.


 
The last time Egypt dropped points at home during the Afcon qualifiers was way back in 2014, when they lost by a solitary goal against Senegal, and since then, they've managed five straight wins, conceding three and keeping three clean sheets.

It's to Kenya's credit that they managed to secure this victory, and make amends after a poor showing back in Egypt during the Nations Cup.

Under Sebastien Migne, the Stars lost two and won one - a 3-2 victory over Tanzania - during their Afcon campaign, but lacked the character or organisation to overcome the odds and down some tougher opponents in Senegal and Algeria.

On this occasion, however, despite falling behind, despite the injuries, and despite the circumstances ahead of the match, they battled back to rescue a point, showing a new face and a resolute mentality from that which the side had shown during the Afcon.
 

Another boost for Kenya came in the form of Togo's defeat by Comoros - at home - in the other group opener.

The Sparrow Hawks missed out on the 2019 Nations Cup, but had appeared to be Kenya's most likely rivals to qualify - along with Egypt - for the 2021 event.

This early defeat - and against the group's would-be minnows - represents a significant setback, and may well spell trouble for embattled Claude Le Roy further down the line.

The momentum is firmly with Kenya ahead of their second qualifier, against Togo, at home on Monday. Thursday's draw may have felt like a victory, but the entire international break will only be a major success if the Stars defeat the Hawks early next week.