Kenya's Harambee Stars bounced into the quarter finals of the GOtv Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup after ruthlessly dispatching Zanzibar Heroes 2-0 in a pulsating encounter at a jam packed Afraha Stadium, Nakuru on 3rd December.
A Joakins Atudo penalty in the 60th minute and Alan Wanga's scorcher in the 60th minute confirmed Kenya's place among the eight teams that will remain in the regional tournament after tomorrow's group action.
Kenya coach Adel Amrouche had replaced the suspended Aboud Omar with Musa Mohamed at left back as Stars maintained the rest of the starting eleven that had done duty on Saturday.
Kenya began the game in breathless fashion with Jacob Keli and Wanga, handed the skippers arm band, showing early intent. With just three minutes on the clock, the duo combined before Keli forced a diving save from Zanzibar goalkeeper Rashid Abdallah. The rebound fell to Francis Kahata who in an attempt to cross the ball was upended in the box by Hassan Rajab. Referee Wish Yabarow had no hesitation in pointing to the 12 yard spot. Up stepped Azam defender Joakins Atudo to plant the ball past Rashid and give Kenya a fifth minute lead.
Still the Kenyan pressure did not fizzle out. Keli outpaced Ali Mohamed but his shot was well saved by the legs of the Heroes keeper.
Zanzibar were not going to take this pressure lying down and in the eighth minute, after Ali Makame was brought down by Teddy Akumu, Mohamed's free kick brought a timely save from Duncan Ochieng. Both sides went relentlessly at each other. Zanzibar coach Sallum Nassor sent on Ali Badrui at the start of the second half taking out Mcha who was struggling from an injury he sustained in the opening game.
Masoud Omar's hopeful header was easily picked up by the Kenyan custodian as Zanzibar sought a way back into the game.
Clifton Miheso then replaced Noah Wafula in the 54th minute as the effects of the fast paced start to the match started taking it toll on some players.
Miheso almost had an immediate impact after he combined with Musa and Peter Opiyo before the ball kindly fell to Keli who, from point blank range, shot woefully wide with the Zanzibar keeper barely three metres away.
However the KPL Footballer of the Year soon made amends in the 60th minute releasing Wanga with a delightful back heel pass. The AFC Leopards striker needed no second invitation to rifle the ball past Rashid to direct Stars into the quarter finals and to the jubilation of the hundreds of fans at the stadium.
"We are very happy with the result today. This victory is for the people of Nakuru and Kenya at large. We have no preference on whom we play next. We will be ready fro anyone," said Amrouche.
Zanzibar coach Nassor whose side will now have to pray that Rwanda does not win their match if they are to remain in the tournament, blamed the officiating for his teams result.