• Alasdair Howorth

Comoros 2-1 Kenya, Coelacanths on the Brink of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations

Les Coelacanths take top spot of Group G and are just one point away from booking their place in Cameroon with two games left after edging out Kenya in a tight encounter.

Picture taken from the Harambee Stars Facebook page.

In a repeat of their first match in Kenya, neither side could take control of the match in what was a cagey opening. Kenya looked like they had learned their lessons from the earlier encounter by bringing in deeper midfielder Lawrence Juma for the creative 10 Eric Johanna to have more control in the midfield. They were able to control the ball much better and with Ayub Timbe and Cliff Nyakeya constantly roaming and swapping wings the Harambee Stars were probably the slightly better side.

However, Comoros defended well and looked dangerous on the break, particularly down the flanks. And it through this channel that they opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. After a turnover of possession in the midfield Ahmed Mogni was found out on the left flank in space. He duly delivered a teasing cross which found El Fardou Ben at the far post to nod in. It was an excellently taken goal by the country's talisman and top scorer.

Their lead lasted only 13 minutes as Kenya struck back when a long ball was controlled by Masud Juma, who's shot deflected to Cliff Nyakeya just inside the box. Nyakeya, who has been one of Kenya's bright lights since coming into the national side recently, controlled the ball well before rifling it into the corner. Kenya were now on top and the more likely to carve out an opening, but once again they were made to rue missing Micheal Olunga up top who has been in lethal form for club and country.

The second half begun much the same as the first. Kenya controlling possession, but with little penetration and unable to break down the resolute Comorians. The Comoros defence were well organised and as well as looking increasingly comfortable in possession. Centre-back Mdahoma clipped a ball down the wing which was nodded behind for El Fardou Ben to chase. He held up play and played an excellent pass onto the onrushing Mattoir who galloped into the box and rocketed the ball into the top corner.

Taken from the Comoros FF Twitter page.

For a side with hardly any football infrastructure and no football history they were playing tactically superbly and scored an delightful team goal. And it was their defence which stood firm to deny the Kenyan onslaught which was to follow. As the game went later and later the Coelacanths dropped deeper and deeper as Kenya began throwing players forward, but with little invention of incision. While they created many half chances, Brian Mandela squandering the best of those off a corner, Kenya were unable to create any clear cut chances or test Salim Ben Boina in the Comoros' net.

They survived a final tense 10 minutes where Kenya were camped in the Comoros' half, and threw everything they could at the solid Comorian defence. The final whistle went off to a burst of elation from the bench as they rushed onto the pitch to celebrate what is almost definitely qualification to next years' Africa Cup of Nations.

For a tropical Island that relied on 10 of their 11 starters being born abroad, to qualify for their first ever Cup of Nations would be a truly remarkable achievement. They entered the group as the 4th seed and as the 148th ranked team in the world. They drew with the most celebrated African side in Egypt and won away in Togo. Now they have come out on top across two games over a Kenya side that has plenty of extremely talented players and is probably their strongest in recent memory.

For Kenya, this will be a real wake up call. They are not out of qualifications yet, however, they effectively need to beat both Togo and Egypt to qualify and that still might not be enough. While they can point towards the enormous Olunga shaped hole in their attack as the source of their struggles, they simply were not good enough. They were unable to move the ball quickly in possession and create clear chances. At the other end they were suspect, both when they were put under pressure on the ball and when attacked on the break by the Comoros. Kenya have changed manager twice since their AFCON appearance in 2019 and this is the fifth time that Jacob 'Ghost' Mulee has been in charge. With a crop of talented players playing both at home and abroad, they will need to need to reflect on why they haven't been able to achieve more in this group.

37 views0 comments