Eritrea have defied all odds by booking a spot in the ongoing Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup final after overcoming Kenya with a 4-1 win in the first semi-final played at the StarTimes Stadium in Lugogo on Tuesday.
An own goal by Oscar Wamalwa followed by other strikes from Abel Okbay, Michael Habte Gebremesqel, and Robel Kidane were enough to force the defending out of the competition.
Harambee Stars’ only strike came from Wamalwa’s second-half strike but they were unable to add on another one.
Eritrea surprisingly started the first half with more energy than Kenya and could have gone on to score in the ninth and 12th minutes. In the first scenario, Ali Suleman Ibrahim was blocked by Samuel Olwande as he ran at full speed across the left side of the pitch.
Kenya’s captain Joash Onyango saved the moment when he made a vital tackle against his Eritrean counterpart Robel Teklemichael who was through on goal in the second instance.
With Eritrea attacking relentlessly, Teklemichael blasted over the bar in the 17th minute but were not denied in the second scenario where Kidane’s shot deflected off Wamalwa and the ball sailed into the net for the opener in the 19th minute.
Francis Kimanzi was forced to make a change in the 28th minute as he replaced Roy Okal with AFC Leopards’ attacking midfielder Whyvonne Isuza. Okal was making his first start since the tournament began but could not last the full minutes of the first half.
Wamalwa’s effort in the 39th minute was clinically blocked by the Eritreans who had now retreated to deal with an insurgent Harambee Stars. Kenya got another blow in the 41st minute when winger Kevin Kimani got injured and his place was taken by Kariobangi Sharks’ fullback Daniel Sakari.
Harambee Stars went down again in the 49th minute after Okbay found the back of the net to shock the defending champions once more. Okbay’s long-range strike was taken with such precision that goalkeeper Odhiambo could not deal with it.
Kenya responded quick and halved the deficit when Wamalwa’s strike evaded everyone to land into the net. Gebremesqel took just six minutes on the pitch to stretch the lead for Eritrea in the 66th minute.
Gebremesqel had replaced Eyob Weldeyohannes at the hour mark and his shot from a tight angle was enough to down a retreating Harambee Stars.
Kidane got the fourth for his side in the 75th minute with Kenya completely struggling to deal with Eritrea’s forward surge in the last 20 minutes of the showdown.
Eritrea qualified to the final of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup for the first time in their history where they will face off with hosts Uganda.