Harambee Stars stun DRC in thrilling friendly

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By CELLESTINE OLILO
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Birthday boy Michael Olunga struck a brace as Harambee Stars stunned the Democratic Republic of Congo 2-1 in a thrilling International friendly match at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

Olunga, who also scored in Kenya’s 1-1 draw with Uganda Cranes on Thursday, struck in the fifth and 70th minute to extend Stars’ unbeaten run to 10 games.

Gael Kakuta scored Les Leopards’ lone goal in between Olunga’s finishes with a spectacular free kick in the 60the minute. 

Incidentally, it is Olunga who scored for Kenya when they beat DR Congo 1-0 in Kinshasa last October. Undeniably, it was Stars’ best performance in recent years, and they tackled their much-fancied opponents with uncharacteristic grit and confidence as they marched to a second victory over DRC in five months.

DR Congo, quarter-finalists at this year’s Africa Cup of Nation, will feel hard done by referee Davies Omweno after they scored twice only for the referee to cut short their celebrations.

Coach Stanley Okumbi had started with a 4-2-3-1 formation that had Olunga playing as the sole attacker upfront, with help from Jesse Were, Johanna Omolo and Samuel Onyango.

Harambee Stars Michael Olunga dribbles past Democratic Republic of Congo's Tisserand Marcel during their international friendly match at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on March 26, 2017. Harambee Stars won 2-1. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Harambee Stars Michael Olunga dribbles past Democratic Republic of Congo’s Tisserand Marcel during their international friendly match at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on March 26, 2017. Harambee Stars won 2-1. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

New York Cosmos defender David Ochieng played in a defensive midfield position with captain Victor Wanyama as Gor Mahia custodian Boniface Oluoch returned to his place between the sticks.

Harambee Stars goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch makes a save during their international friendly match against DR Congo at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on March 26, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Harambee Stars goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch makes a save during their international friendly match against DR Congo at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on March 26, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

South Africa-based defender Brian “Niang” Mandela created the first goal after releasing Olunga who did well under pressure to fire home with his weaker right foot in the fifth minute for the hosts’ lead.

Olunga kept finding himself in the right places at the right times and could have scored four goals in the match if it were not for the saving abilities of goalkeeper Joel Kiassumbua.

Florente Imbenge’s boys came back with renewed energy in the second half, with second half substitute Gael Kakuta bringing in more energy in their attack.

Kakuta won a free-kick after a clumsy foul by Mandela 20 yards out in the 59th minute and made no mistake from the set piece.

Kakuta, who played for English giants Chelsea before moving to Spanish La Liga side Derpotivo la Coruna, struck the resulting free kick beautifully into the net, giving goalkeeper Oluoch no chance. The Congolese faithful erupted in celebration.

DR Congo supporters cheer their team during their international friendly match against Harambee Stars at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on March 26, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

DR Congo supporters cheer their team during their international friendly match against Harambee Stars at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on March 26, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Defender David Owino the drove through the midfield with 20 minutes left before finding Samuel Onyango who beat his marker and delivered a low cross which Olunga slotted home with a simple touch.

Jordan Ikoko and Yeni Ngbokani provided nervy moments for Kenya in the last ten minutes but Okumbi’ charges held on for the win.

Ngbokani scored with a stunning bicycle kick in stoppage time, but it was allowed for a foul on Joacknis Atudo in the box.

“We told ourselves that the game is 90 minutes and we all promised to give our best during that period,” Stars captain Victor Wanyama said.

“The pitch isn’t that good but we tried to contain DRC, fighting through to the end even after they fought back with a goal. Hopefully we can continue like this even in the Cup of Nations qualifiers.”

Harambee Stars players acknowledge their supporters after their international friendly match against DR Congo at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos on March 26, 2017. Harambee Stars won 2-1. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Harambee Stars players acknowledge their supporters after their international friendly match against DR Congo at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos on March 26, 2017. Harambee Stars won 2-1. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

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