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Firat delighted as Harambee Stars draw with Russia in friendly match

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Harambee Stars in action against Russia
Harambee Stars in action against Russia
  • Russia equalized in the 89th minute for a 2-2 draw
  • Stars coach Engin Firat said the performance was pleasing
  • The next assignment is the World Cup qualifiers

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat says he is pleased with the performance of the team, after they played to a 2-2 draw with Russia in a friendly match played in Antalya, Turkey.

Stars had come from a goal down to lead 2-1 and were heading to a 2-1 win, but the Russians equalized in the 89th minute through Ivan Oblyakov.

However, the performance of the team impressed Firat, who believes the game showed just how good the team had become, and the massive improvements they had shown over time.

“We were very organized and played well. Many people expected us in this kind of game to get five or six goals and I am happy that we disappointed them and showed that we are in a good way to compete with big teams and I hope that we can take this to the World Cup and AFCON qualifiers,” the coach said after the match.

Stars had earlier last month beaten Qatar 2-1 in Doha, before surprisingly losing 1-0 to South Sudan in Nairobi, but they bounced back with a worthy display against the Russians in Antalya.

In the duel, Stars had a poor start and were behind after eight minutes when Alexander Sobolev broke the deadlock with a neat finish inside the box, beating keeper Bryne Omondi one on one.

Okumu’s pass intercepted 

Maksim Mukhin had intercepted Joseph Okumu’s pass as Stars tried to play out from the back, and the midfielder put his teammate through on goal unmarked for him to finish simply behind the keeper.

But it only took seven minutes before Kenya equalized through midfielder Teddy Akumu. A similar mistake like Kenya’s saw the match go even, Akumu pressing Dimitry Barinov to win the ball as he picked up a pass from his keeper.

He had initially fed his captain Michael Olunga, but when his shot was saved, he picked the rebound and shot into the net from the edge of the area.

Harambee Stars celebrating one of their two goals against Russia

Harambee Stars celebrating one of their two goals against Russia

The goal gave Kenya confidence and they began to play the ball better, opening up spaces with Akumu and Richard Odada manning the midfield well. Kenya’s command of the game was rewarded in the 37th minute when Masud Juma made it 2-1 with a finish unmarked inside the box after Georgiy Dzihikiya’s defensive header fell into his path.

Olunga should have given Kenya the third goal with two chances. First, he was put through by a well weighted deep pass from Richard Odada, but his attempt at dinking past the keeper on his weaker right foot saw the effort bounce just wide.

In added time, he was picked out by a cross from the left, but his glancing header went straight to the keeper’s arms.

Olunga presented with a golden chance 

In the second half, Stars were brighter starters and just five minutes in should have had a third goal when Olunga was put through by Akumu, but the skipper’s shot went wide as he raced down through on goal.

But, as the game wore on, Russia grew into the game with their technical bench making changes offensively to put more pressure on the game. They came close when Daler Kuzyaev struck a volley at the edge of the box but it flew straight to Matasi.

Coach Firat made defensive changes, bringing in Brian Mandela and Daniel Sakari to solidify the backline, but Rusia kept their pressure. It finally bore fruit in the 89th minute when Oblyakov tapped in from the edge of the six yard box, picking up a well weighted cutback from the right.

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