Kenya revived their hopes of making it to the finals of 2019 Afcon after a hard fought 1-0 win over Ghana on Saturday.
The hosts had suffered a 2-1 lose away to Sierra Leone in their opening game, with Ghana defeating Ethiopia 5-0. Coach Sebastian Migne made surprising changes for the home team, starting Gor Mahia man Joash Onyango in the heart of defense ahead of David Ochieng, with Philemon Otieno playing on the right.
Sofapaka star Dennis Odhiambo was preferred in the midfield ahead of Anthony Akumu, with Ovella Ochieng, Michael Olunga and Francis Kahata completing the attacking department. Christian Atsu, Thomas Partey, Daniel Amartey and Nicholas Opoku led the Ghanaian side that was tipped as favorites.
The first chance of the game fell to Harambee Stars’ player Ovella Ochieng’ in the seventh minute. The quick winger found his way to the danger zone, and forced goalkeeper Richard Ofori to a fine save and eventually the ball was cleared by the defense.
It was a balanced affair in the first fifteen minutes, but better attacking moves were created by the East Africa nation; the Ghanaian, however, had their chance in the 14th minute when Christian Atsu was fed the ball on the left, but Onyango was there to clear it for unfruitful corner.
Ebenezer Ofori found Majeed Warris in the danger zone with 16 minutes gone, but the striker shot inches wide with goalkeeper Patrick Matasi well beaten. Six minutes later, the custodian was called into action to deny Thomas Partey, who had beaten the defenders to the ball.
Those were worrying moments for the hosts and something had to be done fast; the ball was played to Michael Olunga in the 29th minute, but the defender headed it, unfortunately, to Ismael Gonzalez whose effort went over the bar.
Signs of the first goal were evident but against the visitors, who looked lacked ideas especially in the midfield. The good display by Harambee Stars paid dividends with about three minutes to the break.
Erick Johanna received a perfect ball from Gonzalez, looked up and crossed it to Olunga, who reached it ahead of Ghana defenders, and the ball deflected in for an own goal and a deserved 1-0 win for Kenya at the break.
After the break, the Black Stars came back the stronger side, in search of the equalizer. The impressive Philemon Otieno had to be replaced, after getting what looked like an ankle injury, by Jockins Atudo.
In the 51st minute, Andy Kiafdom almost capitalized on the defensive blunder by Kenya; Francis Kahata lost possession in the eighteen yard box, allowing the Ghanaian to take the short, luckily for the hosts, his effort was off the mark.
With about ten minutes gone, Ghana had the perfect opportunity to hit the back of the net. Ovella Ochieng committed a foul in a promising position, Daniel Orare took it and keeper Matasi mistimed the ball, however, Waris failed to direct his free header into the net.
The home team was living dangerously in the second half, with Black Stars creating chance after chance. With 62 minutes gone, Kenya were reduced to ten men. A perfect ball was laid into danger man Raphael Dwamena, Joash Onyango had to make that last ditch tackle to save his team, unfortunately he did not get the ball leaving the referee with no option but flash a red card.
Erick Johanna was sacrificed for David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng’ as the Kenyans looked desperate to defend their slim lead. It worked for the East Africa nation as they, at the end of the 90 minutes, claimed a vital victory that re-ignited their Afcon qualification journey.
Kenya XI: Patriick Matasi (GK), Abud Omar, Philemon Otieno, Joash Onyango, Musa Mohammed, Ismael Gonzalez, Dennis Odhiambo, Francis Kahata, Eric Johanna, Ovella Ochieng and Michael Olunga.
Subs: Faruk Shikalo (GK), Eric Ouma, David Ochieng, Jockins Atudo, Anthony Akumu, Pistone Mutamba and Jesse Were.
Ghana XI: 1. Richard Ofori, 12. Andy Yiadom, 4. Dan Opare, 3. Nicholas Opoku, 18. Daniel Amartey, 6. Afriyie Acquah, 8. Ebenezer Ofori, 7. Christian Atsu, 14. Edwin Gyasi, 5. Thomas Partey, 9. Majeed Waris.
Subs: Lawrence Ati, Harrison Afful, Kwadwo Asamoah, Isaac Sackey, William Owusu, Raphael Dwamena and Rashid Sumaila.