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Kanga scores late as Gabon beat Harambee Stars in Franceville

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Action between Kenya and Gabon in Franceville. PHOTO/FKF
Action between Kenya and Gabon in Franceville. PHOTO/FKF
  • Gabon came from behind to win 2-1
  • Masud Juma had given Kenya a 1-0 lead at halftime
  • Kenya next plays Seychelles

Guelor Kanga scored an 88th minute winner as Gabon came from behind to beat Kenya’s Harambee Stars 2-1 in the opening Group F fixture of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Masud Juma’s 40th minute goal had given Kenya a 1-0 halftime lead, but Dennis Bouanga levelled matters on the hour mark, before Kanga’s scorching effort gave the home side victory late in the game.

All through the game, Gabon had been the most enterprising upfront, with Kenya choosing to sit in a low block in the away duel. Bouanga had the opening effort at goal after 13 minutes when he won the ball off Amos Nondi on the right, but his effort from a tight angle was kept out by keeper Patrick Matasi while he scuffed the rebound.

Bouanga, who turns out for Los Angeles FC had another go at goal in the 28th minute, this time his looping header from a corner going over the bar. The Gabonese continued piling the pressure but couldn’t get a goal.

Stars’ first effort at goal came after 33 minutes when skipper Michael Olunga took on a drive from midfield, but his eventual long range shot was wide. Seven minutes later however, the team broke the deadlock.

Nondi floated in a cross from the right and Masud nodded it home with keeper Ngoubi Demba who had just come on as a substitute, failing in his bid off his line to collect the ball.

Olunga with a golden chance 

Olunga should have made it 2-0 in the fourth minute of added time when a brilliant cross from Rooney Onyango found him at the edge of the six yard box, but his glancing header was brilliantly saved by the keeper.

In the second half, Gabon changed tact with a fresh pair of legs in attack, Shavy Babicka coming off for David Sambisa. The substitute had a good impact in attack as his speed and flair cause some trouble to the Stars backline.

In the 57th minute he made a decent run into the edge of the box before slipping a pass to Anthony Oyono, but the latter’s shot was blocked by Johnstone Omurwa. On the other end, Omurwa almost combined with his defensive partner Dennis Ng’ang’a for a goal, the latter floating in a freekick but Omurwa’s header looped over the roof of the net.

Against the run of play, Stars conceded the equalizer. They lost the ball deep in the attacking third and the ball was quickly launched upfield, Bouanga collecting a ball that lopped behind the defense before slipping it past Matasi.

The goal gave Gabon confidence and they continued to attack. In the 84th minute Abud Omar had to clear the ball off the line after Jim Allevinah’s flick from a Bouanga cross beat Matasi.

They got the winner four minutes later when Kanga picked the ball from distance and with no one closing down on him went for a spectacular long range effort which flew past Matasi and into the top left corner.

Stars’ efforts to get back into the game were in vain as Gabon managed to defend their lead.

Stars will now shift their attention to the second game against Seychelles on Monday, the tie set to be played in Ivory Coast.

Burundi edge out Gambia to move top of Group F

Meanwhile, Burundi went top of the group after edging out Gambia 3-2 in a five-goal thriller in Dar es Salaam. The Burundians raced to a 2-0 lead inside the first 35 minutes after a brilliant start.

Burundi broke the deadlock in the 31st minute when Abedi Bigirimana headed home from a Saido Ntibanzokiza cross from the right.

Four minutes later, they were 2-0 up from another setpiece, this time Frederick Nsabiyumva finishing off at the backpost from a Jordi Liongola delivery.

It was a great lead for the Burundians especially after they had dodged a few bullets from Gambia earlier on in the game. A 2-0 lead was comfortable enough, but they were made to end the half nervy after Musa Barrow halved the deficit in the second minute of added time with a shot from the edge of the box.

In the second half, the Burundians made changes to the squad as they sought a more attacking framework and they made it 3-1 in the 75th minute when Abdallah Sudi picked a looping ball behind the defense before slotting past the keeper.

Gambia once again scored in added time, this time Ebrima Colley converting from a 98th minute penalty, but it was too little too late as Burundi already had secured a good lead.

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