Stars fire blanks to dim cup chances in tame Nyayo draw

Harambee Stars McDonald Mariga is tackled by Uganda Mike Sseremaga and Tony Mawejje (left) during their Africa Cup of Nation Qualifiers match played at Nyayo Stadium on Saturday. Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO

Kenya’s hopes of qualification to the 2012 African Cup of Nations was severely jolted on Saturday when they were held to a barren draw by a resilient Uganda side at Nyayo National Stadium.

Inter Milan’s McDonald Mariga was twice denied by the upright while his brother Victor Mugabe saw his near point blank effort saved by Uganda keeper Denis Onyango as luck refused to smile for Harambee Stars.

The draw means Kenya have only picked one point from two matches following their 1-0 loss to Guinea Bissau that leaves them in a precarious position as they chase group leaders Uganda on four points with four matches remaining.

Angola are also on four points, but with an inferior goal difference, after they edged out Guinea Bissau 1-0 in Luanda. Felisberto ‘Gilberto’ Amaral scored a 22nd minute penalty for the all-important goal.

An oversold Nyayo National Stadium that included thousands of Uganda fans was treated to a gritty performance from both sides with beautiful and woeful soccer played out in equal measures.

The Ugandans, backed by their travelling fans took the game to the Kenyans from the first whistle. The early pressure told as they won three corners inside the first 20 minutes while Kenya had not even had shot on goal.

Mariga made that first attempt shooting straight at Onyango in the 20th minute. Mariga almost got the opener on 25 minutes sending a screaming shot from far that thundered out off the left upright Onyango just getting his fingers to it.

The rebound went wasted after Osborne Monday, who came in for the injured Julius Owino, stabbed the ball feebly to the keeper.

Mariga began to assert himself and four minutes later combined well with Oliech but his final effort on goal lacked power and placement.

Six minutes into the second half Mariga wiped in a cross that Onyango spilled but Mugabe failed to take advantage shooting straight at the keeper who had recovered to push the ball back into play.

With minutes ticking away a desperate Mulee brought in strikers Allan Wanga and George “BlackBerry” Odhiambo but they could not break the deadlock.

Mariga could only hold his head in the 79th minute after he saw his free kick beat the Uganda wall but not the left post. Jacob Mulee will be disappointed by the overall display of Harambee Stars.

The home team took control of the match after the early pressure from Uganda but seemed bereft of enterprise, playing a lot of flat balls and hopeful punts up field for Oliech to chase. His strike partnership with Mugabe failed to fire up.


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