A spirited Harambee Stars held Ethiopia to a scoreless draw in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group “F” qualifier at Bahir Dar stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
A draw, the 11th between the two sides in 43 meetings, takes Kenya’s points tally in the group to four after three rounds and they are now top of the pool.
The Walya Antelopes remain bottom without a point following Sierra Leone’s suspension by world football governing body, Fifa, hence forfeiting the 1-0 win on September 9.
Kenya hosts Ethiopia in the second leg on Sunday at Kasarani stadium with a win enough to propel the side to the Afcon finals after a 14-year hiatus, should Fifa fail to lift Sierra Leone’s suspension any time soon.
Ethiopia, clad in their traditional yellow and green colours, started excellently, full of pace and aggressive intent evidenced with a first minute attempt from a corner kick.
Francis Kahata fouled Dukele Dawa 25 yards away from the target on 15 minutes, but Gatoch Panom sent the resultant free kick inches wide.
Kenya, for a moment had a cautious approach sitting back to break on the counter.
In the 19th minute, Michael Olunga ran into the area onto Eric Johanna’s pass, unleashed a left foot shot that troubled Ethiopia custodian Samson Asefa, before his defence cleared their lines.
Ten minutes later, Olunga played in Johanna, whose curving shot veered off the target.
The hosts combined well inside Kenya’s penalty area, but Shemeles Bekele hit the side net before Michael Olunga opened Gambian referee Bakary Gassama’s book with a 36th minute yellow card.
Gor Mahia utility Philemon Otieno followed suit two minutes later and three minutes to the halftime break, Ethiopia’s Dukele Dawa was booked for a nasty challenge on Abud Omar.
Kenya coach Sebastian Migne was dealt with a blow on 54 minutes after Abud limped out forcing Sweden-based Erick “Marcelo” Ouma to replace him in the second change after the ineffective Eric Johanna was withdrawn for Ismael Gonzalez at restart.
The hosts, backed by a huge crowd, continued with their glorious hunt for the opener bossing the midfield with ease, while slowly making inroads in the Kenya defence.
Demte Beneyam forced Patrick Matasi to a save with a veracious shot from the right flank on 54 minutes and on 67 minutes, Shemeles Bekele beat the offside trap but was denied by the upright.
By Daily Nation